The sport of motocross is hugely popular in New Zealand, yet for those not immersed in that world, it comes as something of a surprise to discover the physical demands motocross riders are placed under. In this article, Hamilton physiotherapist and motocross enthusiast John Apple shares his insights into the sport.
For the last 10 years I have had the honor and pleasure to work with some of New Zealand’s best motocross riders. In addition to managing the riders’ injuries, I’ve also developed a unique programme to build a rider’s strength and endurance to get the most out of their body.
Thanks to Josh Coppins Racing I’ve had the chance to work with some of New Zealand’s fastest riders.
And in fact we have had an Advance trained rider win a New Zealand national title each year, for the last 10 years.
The best form of injury prevention in the motocross rider is fitness. More importantly fitness for the motocross rider has to be sport specific. I’ve seen examples of the professional motocross rider slotting in with a Tour De France cycling team, and I know for a fact that a high level motocross professional could perform at the top level of almost any endurance sport from Iron Man to rowing.
However take a professional triathlete and ask them to race motocross and there is a very good chance of seeing that athlete in a wheelchair. It takes 300-400 specific skills to race a rally car. In motocross it takes 3000-4000 unique skills to race at the professional level.
There is a reason that motocross has been rated as the worlds more physically demanding sport. It takes a high level of skill to race the bike at speed.
One millisecond of fatigue or loss of concentration can have devastating results in the form of a crash, injury or potential loss of life.
Scientific research has found that motocross riders have an average heart rate of 96 percent during the race, compare this to road cyclist at 80 percent and mountain bikers at 90 percent.
When a racer lines up on the start line they are very aware that in this race there is a very good chance that they or someone in the race will crash out suffering a life altering injury.
To achieve at this level, a rider must put fear aside and ride with 100 percent confidence and commitment. There is no room for error. Just ask any rider who has achieved top ten in the world for a list of injuries they have sustained over the years. Motocross is truly a full contact sport.
The most common injuries we see in clinic from motocross are knee injuries (FYI.. a proper knee brace is just as important as a helmet), shoulder injuries, concussion, and leg fractures. The scary injuries such as ruptured spleens, compound fractures, spinal cord injuries are less common but still happen in New Zealand on a yearly basis.
So why do we do it, why risk it? In the world of surfing, there is a term “only a surfer knows the feeling.” Well in motocross the same is true. The feeling of railing the rut third gear tapped like the bike is on rails when going around a corner ten times faster than you could without the rut. The feeling of achievement when you get the hole shot.
That moment of absolute terror as your hit the jump face at full speed, immediately followed by the most amazing feeling of flying through the air free as a bird. The feeling of satisfaction of completing the race that tested you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
And finally that pure joy you get from sharing this experience with friends, family and supporters is simply something that needs to be experienced to understand.
I hope to see you out there having fun, riding hard and staying safe. And if you see me or my son out riding, look for bike #174 or #199, feel free to say hi and have a chat about getting motocross fit.
Director of Advance Physio, John Appel is dedicated to helping everyone function fully and enjoy everyday life without the restriction of pain.With a Masters in Physiotherapy, a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology, an Athletic Training degree, and as a Myofascial Release therapist, he works with a wide range of clients from professional athletes to chronic fibromyalgia clients.