After sitting out the last four races since Indianapolis, Nicky Hayden will ride a MotoGP bike again at the Motorland Aragon circuit. To help clarify his situation, and talk about the operation he underwent and the difficult period of rehabilitation which followed, the Drive M7 Aspar team issued a press release containing an interview with the American. In it, he answers many of the questions he will inevitably face over the weekend. This is Nicky Hayden's side of the story.
“Racing is my life, my passion, not just my job.”
After undergoing two operations on his right wrist in the space of just two months and missing four rounds of the MotoGP World Championship, DRIVE M7 Aspar rider Nicky Hayden finally returns to competitive action at Aragón this weekend. For those who doubted his return, Hayden is one of the most experienced and motivated riders in the paddock and for him, racing is life. The 'Kentucky Kid' is an icon of modern-day MotoGP, irrepressible in times of adversity and a man who does not know the meaning of the word 'NO.' He has needed every ounce of that courage and determination over the last few months as he has battled to overcome the worst injury of his career. Now, finally, the long wait is over.
What exactly did the operation that you underwent entail?
In our wrists we have two rows of tiny bones. They have removed the upper row, which was damaged. It sounds crazy but when you see the results on the X-ray it makes sense.
What was the main problem? Pain, lack of feeling, loss of strength?
There were a few things. In the last two races before we decided to operate I knew something wasn't right, I couldn't ride properly. The pain was always there but you get used to that and learn to live with it. But then I started to get problems with the stability of the joint, because the bones had become displaced and weren't working together. When I made certain movements I could feel something wasn't moving correctly inside my wrist. I lost mobility and strength… there were several factors that led me to the decision to have surgery.
Who's opinion convinced you to have the surgery?
I was always very clear and my plan from the start was simple: to fix my wrist and return to action as quickly as possible. As for the operation itself, I asked various doctors and gathered some different opinions. Obviously they didn't all concur but I just tried to gather as much information as possible before going through with it, which included talking to other riders who had suffered similar injuries.
How long did you have to remain completely inactive for?
The first ten days after the operation were strict rest, so I stayed in San Diego with my hand completely immobilised. After that they gave me a removable splint, which I was able to take off to shower and clean the wound.
When did you start with your rehab and what did it consist of exactly?
After around two weeks I started to slowly move my fingers and at that point we began the rehab. After a few days I started some light training, low intensity static training. At the same time I underwent all sorts of different therapies like laser treatment, magnetic therapy, ultrasounds, platelet-rich plasma injections… At the start it was rough, I'd undergone two operations in just over a month. I had surgery in June and then something much more serious in July. I'd been dealing with the injury for three months and inevitably your muscles deteriorate in this situation. Also the bones in my arm and hand were very stiff.
At what point were you able to get back to full training?
Well, I wouldn't say there was a specific point, it was more a case of building into it. At first I was on the stationary bike to maintain a level of fitness, then we introduced some work in the pool and after that I went back into the gym for general conditioning and some specific work on my upper body and legs. I combined the rehab programme with rest, some running and my normal routine. You could say it started with the rest that I needed after the operation, then the rehab and then the return to training combined with the rehab.
What have the doctors said?
I have to say the doctors urged my to start moving the hand quite quickly after the operation. Even so it was a delicate procedure that needed a lot of recovery time. The surgeon is very happy with the result and the progression since then.
Have you been able to ride a motorcycle? How do you feel?
I started to ride a bike again last week a 125cc dirt-tracker on a flat track. The first time I rode it the feeling wasn't great, it was obvious I needed more time, but I've ridden again a couple of times this week and the feeling was much better. I was able to ride without thinking about my hand, which made me happy. Obviously it has been a worrying period and I have had to manage with this injury for a long time. There were certain moments when I doubted things.
What has it been like for such a fighter as yourself to have to sit out four races at home?
Going to Indianapolis as a spectator, watching the races on television... it has been tough but I haven't wasted an ounce of energy on anything but my recovery. I have worked extremely hard on making sure my recuperation was as fast and favourable as possible. Now it is time to come back and I couldn't be happier about that. Racing is my life, my passion, not just my job. I am very happy that I can put this injury behind me now and start thinking about seeing my team again and riding the bike. It won't be easy but I am ready to race again.
What are you expecting from your return at Aragón?
It will be hard for me to get back on the pace after such a long time away but I am ready to work hard and take on whatever challenge lies ahead. Unfortunately I don't have my MotoGP bike at home to train on it and see how I feel! The brakes, tyres... there is no way of reproducing the demands of riding a MotoGP bike away from the circuit so I am just looking forward to getting back on my Honda and seeing what happens. There is no point setting objectives, we just have to go to Aragón and work hard, then we'll see. It has been a tough period but the support of my family, team and fans has been fundamental in keeping me optimistic and determined to push on.