If you caught the first episode of Moto: Inside The Outdoors this week, you undoubtedly saw the crossroads that Tommy Hahn and his career has come to. Stints on numerous teams have been hampered by injuries both minor and severe, and this year’s trial run at Team Honda Muscle Milk was no different. After a few text messages, we called Tom up to see what the future holds. This is part one of a two-part interview, as the final portion will be posted later today.
Your summer had been going well. You had a ride with factory Honda, but broke your finger and hand at Colorado, then came back and ripped Southwick. But right after that, you suffered a broken neck. Your entire summer was basically recovery...
It was never great sitting on the couch and watching everybody race on TV on the weekends when I knew I should have been out there. I just had a rock hit me in the hand, which cracked my finger and my hand a little bit. I missed eight motos from that then came back and a great first moto at Millville but then had an allergic reaction. I was consistent at Washougal and was feeling good, like I was 100-percent, so I came out swinging at Southwick. I had a little bit of bad luck in the second moto when I tipped over, and later that week I was practicing for Unadilla. I was supposed to fly out that night, but I made a little mistake, crashed at home riding, and broke my back. So, that was it.
I had forgotten about Millville. What did you have an allergic reaction to?
I honestly don't know exactly, it could have been a couple of different things. I am allergic to this type of pollen found in dirt and it is very, very potent. If you are allergic to and you don't have allergy shots, there is no way to get over it. I can't even pronounce it because there are so many Z's and X's in it. I started feeling it a couple of laps towards the end of the first moto, and I had never had an allergic reaction to anything before. It was weird. The top of my head was itching so badly, so over the jumps I was pulling my facemask on the front of my helmet up and down to scratch the top of my head. I was right on some people but I faded back over the last couple of laps because I didn't know what the hell was going on. I was getting really hot all of a sudden, and when I pulled off, I poured water all over me and felt fine. But when I pulled my jersey off back at the truck, I could feel my face start to swell and my throat start to close up. The Asterisk guys pumped me up and got me full of IVs. It was a bummer, but it hasn't happened since.
When you crashed at home in Texas, what were the full extent of the injuries?
I had a compression fracture of my T-3 vertebra, which was basically the exact same thing Zach Bell did a couple of days later (at Unadilla). The T-3 and T-4 were the two I compression fractured, dislocated my shoulder. I had it fixed last summer and it had been really good. I have ridden twice since I broke my back now and my shoulder feels good. I don't have to have it re-done, it healed.
Was there ever a risk of paralysis?
No, nothing like that, but I knew there was something wrong. I had a big gash in my shoulder from the bike hitting me, and I knew there was something wrong with my shoulder. I wasn't sure if my collarbone was broken or popped out, but I knew also knew there was something wrong with my neck or my back, in the higher part between my shoulders. I made sure I could move everything and then I just laid there and waited for the helicopter to come. I was so far out in the middle of nowhere. They said I needed an ambulance, but I wasn't sure because I knew there was something wrong in my neck and that I needed to go to a good hospital, which is in Fort Worth, an hour away. So, we had to get a helicopter. They got my shoulder back in and got me in the helicopter.
I have heard how much a dislocated shoulder can hurt. What was worse: that or your back?
Well, nothing hurt; I was just in shock and disbelief at the time. I felt like I was just getting my stride and taking off, because I felt great. I was so angry and distraught that I can't even explain what I felt. I was impatient as I laid there for the helicopter to come. I was just wanted to go to the hospital, figure out what was wrong, and go home. I was ready to never look at a dirt bike again. I had worked so long, even when my finger was broken, to get where I wanted to be and I showed it at Southwick, even though I tipped over in the second moto, but it was still a good day. I don't get what I did to have this type of luck where these things keep happening to me. It's not like I learned from it, because I don't feel like I did anything wrong.
Like a life lesson.
I wouldn't even call it a life lesson, because I don't know what life lesson it would be to break my back right when I feel good and everything is starting to click. It has been this way for the last two years. Is the lesson that I am not supposed to ride anymore? I don't know. So many things are going through a guy's head when things like that keep happening and you cannot get away from it.
After all of this, how do you raise yourself up to even get back on a bike? Normal people go through lesser injures and never want to ride again…
I don't know. I think it is a little bit of stupidity honestly, and I am not even trying to be funny. A little is stupidity and a little is desire. There are so many things, like love of the sport and love of riding a dirt bike. I love riding a dirt bike and I need it in my life. As far as racing and things like that, I don't know if I have it in me anymore, like the competitiveness. I have been doing for 22 years nonstop and I need a break. I have been going so hard for so long, trying to get better, stressing out, losing sleeping, getting hurt. Putting my whole life into it and not getting anything in return has been really hard to get back on.