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Rider Down: Tommy Wilkinson injury update

Tommy Wilkinson took a big slam into a tree a few weeks ago and bashed himself up good and proper.

Here’s Tommy himself with an inspirational update on his road to recovery. We’re all wishing you the best fella!

Words: Tommy Wilkinson

Its been something of an interesting last 6 weeks, a little flinch in the annals of time but somewhat of a helter skelter for me, probably more so my family.

In the scheme of things I’m fine I suppose. We just have to look at others who are in a much more difficult situation to realise that. Michael Bonny, Stephen Murray, Gunner, Tara Llanes. These dudes are modern day heroes and deserve more than a scribes note in the history of bikes.

Tommy in hospital demonstrating the full effect of priapism.

I’ve had a lot of injuries in my time. Broken both wrists, dislocated both shoulders, had acute compartment syndrome, tore the ligaments in my ankles. These injuries are almost jovial when I think about them now, a trifle irritating but no more.

This accident was from a routine jump; I wanted some time on the DH bike before the first British National Series race. My first national since 2008!

I hit the jump a few times and felt the take off getting a bit soft, but that old chestnut, I hit it one more time. As soon as I took off I skewed sideways, managed to rein her in a bit but was way off line for the landing. Missed the turn and went head first into what I would guess is a teenage lime tree.

A fine specimen of a tree, broad, strong and rooted deep. A botanists delight I’m sure. I’m not so taken with them.

It certainly didn’t seem fazed by a local lad and a Troy Lee Moto lid.

Lo and behold it didn’t hurt a bit. I just couldn’t feel a thing. Lime Tree 1 – Tommy 0.

A top corner screamer from the tree and an awful, inexcusable challenge from me.

Tommy launching the jump that he’d hit 100 times before.

After the usual pomp and circumstance, a nasty bout of Priapism (a man’s worst possible friend, it’s not even posturing when you’re endowed as feebly as me) we discovered a few days later that I’d damaged the spinal cord between c3-c7, dislocated c6, fractured my fairly dense skull, broken my collarbone and torn 3 nerves of the brachial plexus straight out my spinal cord. This led to total right arm paralysis, something called Brown-Séquard syndrome (no feeling on left side of my body, but have movement) and some more acute symptoms such as bladder, bowel and blood pressure control issues.

The staff at the RVI in Newcastle were great, not that I remember much of the first two weeks.

I pestered my surgeon a ridiculous amount, having done a bit of fixing cars in my time; it makes the transition to layman’s surgeon quite easy. So I’ll get some surgery similar to what Tom Wheeler had (he’s been a great help) and maybe some of my arm may come back. I gently stroke it at night to encourage it along, and if Prince Charles reckons talking to plants helps – well, don’t be surprised if you see me talking to my arm.

Tommy trying to escape from the hospital.

It’s very easy to get philosophical about this. I’m not into that but one thing I keep thinking: Would I go back and not ride to avoid this injury? Would I hell. It’s given me the chance to race all over the globe, ride in amazing places, and go places where you’d never go if it weren’t for a bike. Meet people I’ll be friends with for life. That is a gift worth this injury for. I may ride again one day if my body lets me. Maybe.

In between then and now though, once my walking is up to scratch and my blood pressure issues resolve, I’ll be watching everyone else riding, YouTube-ing Harry Maine and Mike Aitken to explosion and getting all fuzzy and warm on how cool the mountain biking scene can be.

One thing worth considering is that no matter how bad it gets, it’ll take a lot before it can drown out all the amazing memories bikes will give you, and that’s something worth cherishing.

Keep riding, keep smiling, and don’t forget the beers.

Thanks to everyone who has sent me DVDs, cards, food and everything else. I owe you all a beer.

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