IndyCar: Robert Wickens reveals he’s paralyzed from vicious August crash

IndyCar
3 Comments

IndyCar driver Robert Wickens has announced on his Instagram account that he’s paralyzed from the waist down.

Wickens said in his post:

“Did my first slide transfer as a paraplegic today. My upper body is getting stronger and stronger and hopefully I’ll be able to do it unassisted soon. I’ve only been posting videos of the small movement in my legs, but the reality is I am far away from walking on my own. Some people are a bit confused with the severity of my injury, so I wanted let you know the reality of it. I’ve never worked harder for anything in my life, and I am giving it all I’ve got to spark those nerves in my legs.”

The 29-year-old Wickens suffered major critical injuries after being involved in a horrific crash August 19 in the early laps of the IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway. His car flew up into the catchfence, spun several times in mid-air and landed hard against the inside retaining wall.

AP photo.

The Canadian driver was airlifted to a hospital in nearby Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he was treated for nearly two weeks before being transferred to an Indianapolis hospital for further surgery and treatment.

MORE: Racing world takes to social media in support of Robert Wickens

Wickens was diagnosed with the following injuries: thoracic spinal facture, spinal cord injury, neck fracture, tibia and fibula fractures to both legs, fractures in both hands, fractured right forearm, fractured elbow, four fractured ribs and a pulmonary contusion.

Following several surgeries, WIckens has been in a Indianapolis long-term care rehab facility, trying to overcome his injuries. An Associated Press report on Friday said Wickens has recently been moved to a treatment/rehab facility in Colorado.

Photo courtesy Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

While Wickens has previously posted at least one video on social media of exercising his legs, the video attached to his most recent Instagram/Twitter posts show the limitation of his mobility.

What does being a paraplegic mean? Here’s how SpinalCord.com defines it:

“Paraplegia, sometimes called partial paralysis, is a form of paralysis in which function is substantially impeded from the waist down. Most people with paraplegia have perfectly healthy legs. Instead, the problem resides in either the brain or the spinal cord, which cannot send or receive signals to the lower body due to an injury or disease.

“Like other forms of paralysis, paraplegia substantially varies from one person to another. While the stereotype of a paraplegic is of someone in a wheelchair who cannot move his or her arms or legs, cannot feel anything below the waist, and cannot walk, paraplegics actually have a range of capabilities that may change over time, both as their health evolves and their physical therapy helps them learn to work around their injuries.”

Click here for more information about paraplegia from SpinalCord.com.

Here are some previous NBCSports.com’s MotorSportsTalk stories from the Robert Wickens crash timeline:

Follow @JerryBonkowski

SuperMotocross: Ken Roczen urgently needed change

Roczen change
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
0 Comments

Change can be frightening, but it is often exhilarating and Ken Roczen, a rider in his ninth season on a 450 bike, it was urgently needed.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with his worst performance in five years. After finishing outside of the top five in seven of his last eight rounds in the stadium series, well down the points’ standings in ninth, he decided to put that season on hold.

How it ended was in stark contrast to how it began. Roczen’s 2022 season got off to the best possible start. He won the Supercross opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California by more than seven seconds over the 2021 champion Cooper Webb.

That would be his last podium and he scored only one more top-five in the Glendale, Arizona Triple Crown.

MORE: Ken Roczen sweeps top five in Anaheim 2 Triple Crown

Before 2022, Roczen was a regular challenger for the championship despite being plagued by major accidents that required surgery in 2017 and 2018. On his return, he was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which presents with symptoms of heavy fatigue, muscle weakness and loss of appetite and last year he tested positive for COVID-19.

Against those odds, he finished second in the outdoor season in 2019 and third in 2020. In the Supercross series, he finished third in 2020 and second in 2021.

But the abbreviated season of 2022 signaled a need for change for Roczen.

“I needed the change urgently,” Roczen said in last week’s post-race press conference at Angel Stadium. “I did a pretty big change in general.”

Those comments came three races into the 2023 with him sitting among the top three finishers for the first time in 10 Supercross rounds. It was the 57th podium of his career, only six behind 10th-place Ryan Villopoto. It was also the first for Suzuki since 2019 when Chad Reed gave them one in Detroit 63 rounds ago.

Taking time off at the end of the Supercross season had the needed effect. He rejoined SuperMotocross in the outdoor season and immediately stood on the podium at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Two rounds later, he won at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. The relief was short lived and he would not stand on the podium again until this year.

Roczen Motocross Round 3
Ken Roczen won Round 3 of the outdoor season in 2022 at Thunder Valley after finished second in Moto 1 and first in Moto 2. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Winds of Change

Roczen’s offseason was dramatic. Citing differences over his announcement to compete in the World Supercross Championship, he split with Honda HRC and declared himself a free agent. It wasn’t a difficult decision; Roczen was signed only for the Supercross season.

That change had the desired effect. Roczen won the WSX championship in their two-race, pilot season. More importantly, he proved to himself that he could compete for wins.

Late in the offseason, Roczen announced he would also change manufacturers with a move to HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki. He won the 2016 Pro Motocross title for Suzuki with nine wins in 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second. He easily outran the competition with an advantage of 86 points over second-place Eli Tomac.

“I just think change overall made it happen – and these overseas races – it’s really just a snowball,” Roczen said. “You start somewhere and you feel like something works out and I got better and had more fun doing it. Working with the team as well and working on the motorcycle to get better and actually see it paying off. It’s just, it’s just a big boost in general.”

The return to Suzuki at this stage of his career, after nearly a decade of competing on 450 motorcycles, recharged Roczen. He is one of three riders, (along with Cooper Webb and his former Honda teammate Chase Sexton), with a sweep of the top five in the first three rounds of the 2023 Supercross season.

But last week’s podium really drove home how strong he’s been.

“I think we’re all trying to take it all in,” Roczen said. “I wouldn’t say it came out of nowhere really, but before the season starts you think about – or I thought of how my whole last season went – and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium.”

Roczen’s most recent podium prior to Anaheim 2 came at Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville, Maryland last August in Round 10 of the outdoor season. His last podium in Supercross was the 2022 season opener that raised expectations so high.

Supercross Round 1 results
Ken Roczen raised expectations with his season opening win at Anaheim but did not stand on the box again in the Supercross series. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

The change Roczen needed was not just a different team and bike. More importantly, he needed the freedom to set his own schedule and control his training schedule.

“It’s long days, but I’m really into it at the moment,” Roczen said. “Overall, I felt [that] throughout this off season and now my health has been really well, really good, so that helps. It’s needed to get to the top. I’m pretty confident that we’re, we’re doing the right thing – that I’m doing the right thing.

“I’m doing all my training on my own and I’m planning out my entire week. And I feel like I have a really good system going right now with recovery and putting in some hard days. Right now, I don’t really have anybody telling me what to do. I’m the best judge of that.

“It’s really hard to talk about how much work we’ve put in, but we’ve been doing some big changes and riding a lot throughout the week, some really, really late days. And they’re paying off right now; we’re heading in the right direction. We’re all pulling on the same string, and that helps me out big time.”