Hopkins on the Mend in Laguna Seca

Henny Ray Abrams | July 17, 2008

MONTEREY, CA, JULY 17: Kawasaki’s John Hopkins spent Thursday tooling around the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca paddock in a golf cart, his left foot in a soft cast as he recovers from injuries sustained in a horrific qualifying crash during the Dutch TT in Assen. Hopkins suffered a fracture to the bottom of his tibia and reopened a previous fracture from earlier in his career. A further examination by Dr. Art Ting revealed a tibial plateau fracture just below the knee, and damage to the meniscus (cartilage), which was causing Hopkins’ knee joint to lock. Hopkins was operated on in Los Angeles for both the leg and knee injuries. He revisited Dr. Ting the day before coming down to Monterey for the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix. Ting told him that his recovery is on schedule. The wounds are “almost already completely already healed after just a week. And I’m already walking on it, even though I’m not allowed to be. But still got to do one week without no weight or anything. I mean the knee and ankle are getting better, a lot better.” Ting said it would be one more week before Hopkins could start working out in a pool, “just to get it a little bit more time for all the bolts in the ankle to just settle and stuff.” The plan is to return after the summer break for the Aug. 17 Czech GP at Brno. “That’s the plan, that’s the ultimate plan,” Hopkins said. “I want to be ready for Brno. They’re getting some new motor parts.” Hopkins saw the forced hiatus as “a blessing in disguise. I mean, it was just a little break, clear my head, and have time for my back injury to heal up a little bit. Right now, I mean, I’m feeling really good, feeling really motivated. I mean, the whole time I was sitting at home, I was sitting there watching-because you sleep during the day and stuff when you’ve got an injury and that-so I’d be up all night. Have a computer on my main screen on the TV, so I’m up all watching all the live timing all the way through Germany and stuff. No, I couldn’t get away from it, but can’t wait to get back out there. Just sucks that I can’t be here riding.” The season has been painful since the start. A crash during one of the pre-season tests in Australia left him with a groin injury that he described as the worst of his career. The team didn’t pressure him to return, he put the pressure on himself. “I mean, I’m paid to go out and perform and that’s what I wanted to do was perform at my maximum level,” he said. “But little did I know that I was actually, by not giving myself time to recover, I mean I was just going out and maybe riding at 70-80% instead of coming out at 100% all the time.” Of the groin injury, he said, “You know that was, it was a nightmare. It was the worst injury I’ve ever endured in my life for sure, was the groin injury. And it just wasn’t getting any better at all. And it was crazy, because once I went to the doctor to go see…in Barcelona, I went to the specialist that (Dani) Pedrosa and those guys see. And they did my back x-ray and then I had fractured my fourth vertebrae. And it also came clear that during the crash, I’d actually broken my hip during that crash. Because he asked me, the doctor comes to me, and he goes, ‘So,’ he goes, ‘So when did you break your hip?’ ‘I don’t know, I didn’t know that I did.’ And he goes, ‘Well, I mean it’s not brand new. It’s not fresh, but I mean, you know I can tell it’s been within the last year or so.’ And I just said, ‘Well maybe that explains all my damn pain that I had at the beginning of the year.’ Because all the soft tissue stuff, it was quite apparent what had happened. But I mean it just still felt like it was more pain in there than what was being shown and stuff. And then it just took a simple x-ray and found a chip on the right side of my hip.” Dr. Ting told Hopkins that it sometimes takes weeks for a hip injury to show up on an x-ray, “if you don’t get like the full bone scan into the hip, because it can slowly separate over time. So it didn’t actually separate until a couple weeks after.” Which means as he was developing the motorcycle-he’s gotten a new chassis and new engine since the start of the year-he found himself “getting dragged and getting dragged under and getting dragged under. I mean it just felt like I was, I mean I was just barely hanging on. I mean it was almost as if I was barely hanging on to sanity, because the pain was so bad and I was living through the pain and then having to ride through the pain. And then when I’d get home I wasn’t able to train and I was just resting. And then I’d train, overtrain, so I was actually making the injuries worse. So I wasn’t actually giving much time for my body to recover, so I mean, you know these last couple weeks have been really good. And now we have this summer break, so I’m sure I’ll be going to Brno with a whole new outlook.” That outlook won’t include second guessing himself. In Germany, teammate Anthony West had his worse weekend yet with the team. He crashed three times, including once when he destroyed a motorcycle and once during the race. The Australian thought there might be something wrong with the front end. “To be honest, I don’t know, I think he’s just trying to override,” Hopkins said. “I know he wants to try and keep his job or maintain the best job that he can, so he’s really trying to push and ride harder than he has been all previous, throughout the rest of the year. I mean, I don’t know, I haven’t really heard much about his crashes. I haven’t spoken to the team much about it. I mean, I’m pretty confident in my front. I just made a couple of mistakes at Assen. I think the front end’s pretty good on the bike and the chassis’s alright.”

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.