To many athletes a 200mph superbike crash would be career ending, even life ending. But then Simon Andrews
is made of different stuff. We’ve been helping him on the journey to recovery and a return to competition. Article by Harris & Ross high performance manager, Darren Roberts.
Simon Andrews races superbikes, however he doesn’t just race them – he races the world’s most deadliest street races on the 200mph beasts, like the Isle of Man TT and Macau GP.
On the 22nd September Simon was racing the Le Man’s 24 hour race when he clipped the back of another bike, crashing at over 200mph. Simon recounts what happened next in a very sobering manner, being conscious throughout. He remembers the medics getting to him, and being told they had to stabilise him where he lay as he wouldn’t survive long enough to get to hospital. His list of injuries was catastrophic – both arms and legs broken, all ribs broken, back broken and a collapsed lung. His liver failed, he was put on a ventilator and he was put into a coma for a week.
There was a very real possibility he wouldn’t survive and would pay the ultimate price for his racing.
However – Simon is a fighter, and he started to show signs of recovery. As soon as he was out of his coma I texted him while he was still in France in hospital, asking what trouble he was causing! I first met Simon a couple of years ago – a crash caused his leg almost to come completely off and at one stage looked like it was going to be amputated.
We talked about his rehab, training and to return to racing. He also had auxiliary palsy in his shoulder from another crash which I’d be trying to help him with – his list of injuries before the catastrophic Le Mans crash was already eye watering. During his time in France he had to have an operation to have a pin put into his left leg, he already had one in his right leg. On returning to UK he underwent more surgery on his legs – with the process infinitely complicated as each limb was broken.
As soon as Simon was able he came up to Wilmslow to start his rehabilitation. With such significant poly trauma, this was by far the most challenging rehab- and return-to-sport athlete I’ve ever worked with, it was easier to list what he hadn’t broken as opposed to what he had. When you have an athlete who has broken everything, where do you start? As always it was with the broad over-arching plan I use with any very seriously athlete;
1. Focus on what they can do, not what they can’t;
2. Broken bones heal, to do that they need blood flow so we need the heart to be pumping;
3. Injury is a negative process, make it positive process as an opportunity to make them as fit & strong as they’ve ever been.
Simon had a huge amount of time being in hospital on his back, moving around on crutches was impossible as his arms were broken. Being totally sedentary was causing as many problems as the injury both physically and mentally. This is why it was vital to get him up to Wilmslow as soon as possible so we could get him moving and start talking about what we could do. Making him feel good is as key a part of any athlete rehabilitation as the actual treatment is.
Simon still had a cast on one of his legs, which we had removed straight away and replaced with a removable boot. The fractures that needed to heal were not going to do so if simply left, they needed encouragement. The flow pool proved to be a key tool in his early rehab, a way to load him and condition him without impact. We were also able to do some rudimentary isolated weight exercises to start building up the soft tissues, eventually building to him being able to get up and down off the floor. A simple enough task for most people, but for Simon this was a major milestone.
Simon spent every other week with us on an intense rehabilitation schedule – with each session designed to push him and his capabilities to the maximum. With all his joints suffering a lack of range of motion, it was simpler and easier to get a race bike delivered to the clinic and actually treat him on the bike
so we knew how far off ‘racing crouch’ we were. This type of intense rehabilitation can seem quite merciless to the outside observer, but for elite athletes this is the process they need to go through to stand any chance of returning to sport. Every modality is explored in an effort to work on his strength & conditioning. Free weights, rowing sprint repeats, rope climbs – everything was used to encourage the healing process.
Just 15 weeks after lying in a coma in France Simon was deadlifting 110kg, squatting his bodyweight and pressing his bodyweight. A staggering recovery from near death. There was never any talk of not racing again, or not being able to make the start of the 2014 season – it simply wasn’t something that even needed considering. The process doesn’t get easer for Simon, he just gets fitter and stronger as we head into the return to sport phase.