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Ride of a lifetime

After a severe crash in left him injured, an area man is getting back on the his bike

After a severe crash in left him injured, an area man is getting back on the his bike

October 06, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

STATE LINE, Pa. - Greg Hartman is pumped. Actually, he says he's "super-pumped."

Almost like a kid who's just done a bike trick for the first time - and didn't get hurt.

What Hartman did is way cooler, though. He sped his motocross bike up a steep ramp and flew about 30 feet above the ground. While in midair, he lifted off the seat, pointing his legs skyward behind him while holding onto the seat with his left hand and the handlebar with his right hand.

The move is called a seat grab and is often seen on X Games during freestyle trick competitions.

"That's big news for me. I was scared I'd forgotten how to do that stuff," Hartman said.

Hartman, 25, who lives near Greencastle, Pa., has done the move plenty of times. Hartman is a professional motocross rider. But a week ago at his practice track, he tried, for the first time, tricks he not done since suffering a severe head trauma in July while crash landing from a freestyle trick during an exhibition in Cleveland.

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"I've not done tricks since I got hurt. Well, (I did) small tricks. That (seat grab) was rad," Hartman said.

Hartman knows he probably shouldn't be jumping 30 feet in the air just yet, but "I need to feel like myself again," he said.

"Going to therapy and having people talk to you about head injuries every day isn't normal life for me," he said. "And doing tricks on my dirt bike is, and I need to feel like a normal person again."

Hartman said it was "really important to me, actually," to do some tricks such as the seat grab, Superman and nac nac.

He said during his convalescence, he would lay awake wondering if he would remember how to do tricks. It was reassuring to know the muscle memory was still there.

Except for a few vague memories from the hospital, Hartman doesn't remember anything from the time the Cleveland show started until two weeks later when he was back home.

His brain had bled and swelled, his right lung had collapsed, and some ribs and his left hand were broken.

His wife, Carly, who was at the Cleveland show, accompanied him in the ambulance, in which he awoke and began kicking and thrashing because of the head injury, she said. She stayed by his hospital bedside that week, thinking that could be the end of his motocross career.

Rehabilitation

Hartman gives much of the credit for his successful rehab to his speech and occupational therapists at Total Rehab Care at Robinwood Medical Center. They kept him motivated to do his rehab exercises at home and not just at the medical center.

Hartman completed about two months of physical, occupational and speech therapy last month.

"Greg has made a tremendous improvement in a short amount of time," said Sharon Britner, speech language pathologist at Total Rehab Care. "He took all our recommendations and really took them to heart and really applied."

Speech therapy involved working on his attention skills, something crucial to his work where a distraction could mean a fall, Britner said.

Exercises included solving deductive reasoning puzzles while there was a distraction in the room such as a TV.

Therapists also checked his reaction time to what he was seeing and his ability to quickly move his arms and legs on command and to do multiple things at once, said Britner and Tim Burkhart, occupational therapist at Total Rehab Care.

Burkhart also worked with Hartman's right rotator cuff, which had been injured in a previous motocross accident. Hartman hadn't been able to raise his right arm higher than his chest, and now he can lift his hand over his head.

Brain trauma recovery

He's still recovering from the head injury.

First, the brain has to reabsorb the blood from the trauma, which it has in Hartman's case, said Sarah Layman, physician's assistant at Comprehensive Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Frederick, Md.

The concern now is the possibility of a second head injury while he is still recovering from the severe trauma.

There's a period of time the brain needs to heal, Layman said. While you can see that the blood has been reabsorbed, there can be lingering after-effects such as memory loss, headaches, fatigue, confusion and dizziness.

After a severe head trauma, there's a time period in which just falling and hitting the head could cause a severe head injury, whereas without that initial trauma the person might be fine after a fall.

In Hartman's case, it's three to six months from the time he felt better in mid-September until he should return to risky activities, Layman said.

"He's talented," Layman said. He can ride a motorcycle and not fall off and hit his head, but he should avoid riskier maneuvers.

A hard landing

Hartman wasn't even supposed to be at the Cleveland show, but another rider got injured, so he filled in.

It was a windy day and Hartman recalls being uncomfortable in practice. It was too windy to flip in practice.

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