It’s hard to think of many sports that are tougher on the back than elite level BMX racing. You only need to watch a few seconds of a race – when riders hit the first big gap jump – to understand how strong they need to be to avoid spinal damage.
Unfortunately for 21-year old Damon Hocking, eight years of competitive racing caught up with him at the BMX National Championships last November.
Despite having back pain for eight weeks leading into the event, Damon was determined to perform strongly racing in men’s under 23 at the nationals.
‘My plan was to get my back checked out properly after the Championships,’ Damon explains.
‘I’d qualified for the final and I was fighting for third, but then I crashed with another rider and fell off.
‘If I’d pulled the move off, I would have been on the podium, so that sucked!’
A CT scan and x-rays revealed a pars fracture in Damon’s lumbar spine.
It was a disappointing setback after good recent form competing for Australia in the US, and 10th place at the Oceanian Championships in New Zealand.
After initial treatment with Dr Jade Scott at Western Region Health, she suggested Damon complete his rehab at getback Middle Park.
Damon found the getback program ‘a bit weird’ to start with.
‘I enjoyed it, but it was completely different to what I was used to,’ he says.
But having lost strength in his spinal muscles during his initial recovery, he soon appreciated the benefits of his personalised program.
‘Adam [Cabble, getback Head of Exercise Physiology] was really good,’ Damon says. ‘He took a big interest in my rehab.
‘My strength results [see graph below] were way beyond what Adam wanted me to hit, target wise.’
Adam says that Damon presented with significant weakness in the deep lumbar and cervical muscles due to his injuries and resulting deconditioning.
‘In addition to the loss of strength, Damon’s initial assessment showed significant strength imbalances between forward and back movement, left and right side bending and left and right rotation.
‘He was diligent in completing his getback program two times per week and the results are a clear reward for effort.
‘Damon’s strength levels are now well above that of a matched cohort for his age, height, weight and gender and balanced between forward and back, left and right.’
Just a week after completing his getback program, Damon was back on the bike in preparation for the BMX World Cup in New Zealand.
Surely after that level of injury, he was holding back a bit at first?
‘I couldn’t really ease into it because it’s less than a month till I fly out to NZ!
‘It was basically just doing a few rides and if I feel okay, then go for it!
‘I feel a bit wrecked after no training for months, but the back strength that I built up through getback has helped a lot.’
After a ‘bad experience’ at the Oceanian Championships in New Zealand last year, Damon is keen to redeem himself at the same track during the World Cup.
But he’s also playing a longer game, with his sights firmly set on the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028.
‘This year I’m getting exposure racing at the World Cups and the bigger international events again,’ he explains.
‘And then from 2025 on, I’ll be building towards having a good crack for those Olympics.’
After strong results at the London and Rio Olympics, Australia has dropped off in international competitions in recent years.
‘I’d say we were one of the top countries in that era,’ Damon explains. ‘But we haven’t had that dominance since then.
‘From my perspective, myself and other riders I’m racing with in the Australian team, there’s hope for the future.
‘In the next couple of Olympic cycles, I’m confident Australia will come back to the dominant form we had, with a strong group of talent coming through.
‘I’ll be fighting to be one of those riders selected!’