MotoGP: Nicky Hayden Back On Track

American champion is eager to put wrist surgery behind him and continue his racing career.

Nicky Hayden action shot

Nicky Hayden underwent an operation in July on his right wrist to remove three bones. Earlier this week in a release produced by his Drive 7 Aspar team, the 2006 MotoGP world champion revealed that for months he had been dealing with severe pain and joint instability.

“In the last two races before we decided to operate, I knew something wasn’t right,” he said. “I couldn’t ride properly. When I made certain movements, I could feel something wasn’t moving correctly inside my wrist. I lost mobility and strength.”

Prior to the surgery, Hayden had spoken with a number of doctors. “My plan from the start was simple,” he said. “Fix my wrist and return to action as quickly as possible. As for the operation itself, I tried to gather as much information as possible before going through with it, which included talking to other riders who had suffered similar injuries.”

For the first 10 days after the operation, Hayden kept his hand immobilized. He was then given a splint, which he could remove to shower and clean the wound. After two more weeks, he began rehabilitation, which included laser, magnetic, and ultrasound treatments, and injections of platelet-rich plasma.

“At the start, it was rough,” he admitted. “I’d undergone two operations in just over a month. Inevitably your muscles deteriorate. Also the bones in my arm and hand were very stiff.

“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 program with rest, some running, and my normal routine.

Nicky Hayden portrait shot

“The doctors urged me to start moving the hand quite quickly after the operation. Even so, it was a delicate procedure that needed a lot of recovery time. I have had to manage with this injury for a long time, and there were certain moments when I doubted things. The surgeon is very happy with the result and my progress.”

Now, less than three months after the operation, having missed four rounds of the 18-race championship, Hayden is preparing for his return to competition. He rode a motorcycle, a 125cc flat-tracker, for the first time last week.

“The first time I rode the feeling wasn’t great,” he admitted, “but I’ve ridden 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. Racing is my life, my passion, not just my job. I am very happy that I can start thinking about seeing my team again and riding the bike.”

Hayden hasn’t set lofty goals this weekend at Motorland Aragón. “It will be hard for me to get back on the pace after such a long time away,” he said, “but I am ready to work hard and take on whatever challenge lies ahead. 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.”