Drew Bezanson is long on skill, but unfortunately as of late, a little short on luck. The Canadian BMX rider started 2010 on a win streak and was poised to dominate the year when a shoulder injury hindered his efforts for the rest of the season.
Lessons learned from the shoulder rehab gave him a wiser approach to staying healthy and allowing himself the proper recovery time, and he started the 2011 season strong, with hefty goals on his to-do list.
As the season kicked into high gear, however, Bezanson found himself feeling a bit off, without a definitive reason or explanation. After a lengthy investigation, he discovered he was suffering from an uncommon head injury that would put him off his bike -- potentially for months. No easy ask, especially when you’re talking about someone as talented as Drew, and someone on such a rapid ascent in his sport.
Riding the Road to Recovery
Many months have passed, and although Bezanson is chomping at the bit to get back to riding, his body has yet to give him the all-clear. During a recent visit to the Red Bull office in Santa Monica for some testing and physical training, Drew talked to us about the injury and the recovery process, and promised to be back on his bike soon.
"I found out I had four points of hemorrhaging on the left frontal lobe of my brain, so it was time to slow it down."
When did the injury actually occur?
The injury happened in the middle of June; I was over in Iraq doing shows for the troops with Bikes Over Baghdad and I just missed my grip on a big quarter. When I fell, my elbow went into my ribs at the same time [I hit my head], so that was a bigger concern at that moment.
When did you know it was more serious?
I flew back and went on a Red Bull trip and just wasn’t feeling it. I thought it was just jet lag, but it got worse and worse. I could still ride and do stuff but it was like I wasn’t in my own body. I was getting really dizzy.
I ended up talking to some people at Red Bull and they said that it could be post-concussion syndrome. I got a CAT scan done and nothing showed up, so we decided to do an MRI. I found out I had four points of hemorrhaging on the left frontal lobe of my brain, so it was time to slow it down and start learning how to get better.
How much time went down between the crash and the diagnosis?
Almost two months. When I got the results, it was like a weight off my shoulders. I was like, “Okay, there’s a reason I was feeling the way I was. Now I know the problem and I can start working on moving forward.”
What did the doctors say at first?
The neurologist was really negative, saying, “Well, I suggest you just get a job with less risk.” I didn’t even listen to the rest of what he had to say -- it was very disheartening. Everybody else said I’d be fine though; it was just about taking the time to heal.
I had a neuro-psych test done and talked to other specialists and from that point on I got good results. Once I finally learned what I should be doing for the injury and started working toward it, I started seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
How hard was it to completely stop riding and take a step back?
It’s probably one of the most frustrating rehabs ever, because it’s literally just “do nothing.” You need rest. It was about getting into a regular schedule, eating specific foods that help the brain heal, staying really hydrated, stuff like that. Allowing your body time to heal and focus on healing the brain.
There would be times when I’d have a good day and it would be so frustrating because I’d want to do everything, but if I over-exerted myself the next three or four days would just be a write-off because I’d be so tired.
"Right now, I’m symptom-free at rest, but if I exert myself I get headaches and dizziness."
Did the lessons you learned from your 2010 injuries make it any easier?
I feel like every injury has a purpose to it; as cliché as it is, everything happens for a reason. Injuries definitely make you take a step back, refocus and take a look at the big picture. The way I look at it, if I’m able to charge it for the next ten years then nobody’s going to remember this time off the bike.
How are you feeling now?
Right now, I’m symptom-free at rest, but if I exert myself I get headaches and dizziness still. It’s so frustrating because I’m so determined and motivated and want to get back on the bike more than I ever have. I want to pin it so bad right now, but I have to listen to my body or the recovery will be even longer.
My goal is to be riding around Christmas. The first contest of the year is Simpel Session in the first week of February. I did well there the last two years, so I’d like to be able to go there again.
What have you been doing to pass the time?
It was actually a blessing to have this time off because I got to spend so much time with my family. My sister had her first baby so I became an uncle over the time off. I went to a friend’s physiology class at university the other day; I’ve been sitting in on a couple of those, just trying to learn more about the human body and how it works.
What are your plans when you’re back on the bike?
This year I was fortunate enough to work on a project with Props and film my first full video part [see teaser above]. I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to, but I feel like I got a lot filmed for it. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the finished product, and that will just prepare me for the next full video part, which I start as soon as I’m ready to get back on my bike.
The plan for 2012 is to probably get a home base in the U.S. and buckle down and focus on my riding, have as much fun as possible and work on projects with my sponsors. I’m just really looking forward to 2012, for sure.