Back at the end of the 2001 season, Ryan Hughes suffered a serious crash during practice at the Steel City national that looked like the end to his race career. The list of injuries was substantial, including assorted cuts and bruises, cracked ribs and shoulder blade, a punctured lung, and surgery on his right thumb. Maybe worst of all was a concussion…which wasn’t the first one that he’d suffered during the season. His doctors recommended retirement.
After making his a full recovery, Ryno coached a variety of pro and amateur riders during 2002. He later grabbed a position with KTM, testing their new 250 during its development for the 2003 season.
Lately, we’d been hearing rumors of Ryno eyeing a return to racing. He put in a good showing at World Cup of Motocross, riding in the Fast Masters class on a 125 against the 250-and-larger bikes. It was obvious he had the speed. The big questions were…could he come back? And did he want to?
TransWorld Motocross: We’ve heard the rumors…will we see Ryan Hughes back racing at the pro level?
Ryan Hughes: “It’s a good possibility. I just have to iron out some things and see if I can get the support I want. If I can get that, then it could possibly happen. But I don’t want to say yes or no yet until I have everything ironed out yet. I’m not going to go out there unless I have the best equipment or the best support.”
TWMX: Didn’t you have a career insurance policy similar to what Jeff Emig had?
RH: “I had the same exact thing…but they denied my claim. I guess somewhere in there they said I didn’t put the right stuff, or I missed something out…that’s the way it goes. I wasn’t trying to cheat anyone, or lie, but when they went back and checked everything, then they saw a couple things.
“I went after that, and it didn’t pan out, so if they’re not going to pay me off, I’m going back racing. So why not?”
TWMX: So who are you talking to?
RH: “Well, if I ride it’ll definitely be a KTM. I’ve got to see which team, which gear…a whole bunch of different things right now. Once I iron that out I’ll know for sure.”
TWMX: Is the injury problems you had last year still a consideration? Or is that all over now?
RH: “I got checked out by the doctors and the CAT scans came back negative.The doctors said everything’s fine. I took a year off, everything’s healed up pretty well, and I’ve never had any ill effects or any problems.”
TWMX: There’s been a push to promote baseline concussion testing in the pro class, so doctors can have something to compare against. What do you think of that idea?
RH: “It could be a good idea, but I think the only way you’re going to be able to know if there’s a real injury is from a CAT scan and going to a person who really knows about concussions…someone who’s a brain specialist. It’s a good idea…you can find if someone is a little off his pace, but to find the real damage you need a CAT scan.”
TWMX: Was it hard to sit out this year?
RH: “Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn’t. If I’d known I was only going to sit out a year, It would have been easy. But when you think it’s a whole career, it’s a different story, you know?
“There were times that it was tough, and times that it was easy, but it went by pretty quick. I got to sit on the sidelines and learn a lot of things…learn what I did wrong, and kind of just reflect on things. I also got to lead a different kind of life for a while, and it was good. Me and my wife and my kids got a lot closer, so that was a good thing out of it. So no complaints.”