Interview: Anneke Beerten Opens Up About the Traumatic Brain Injury She Suffered 8 Months Ago

Apr 30, 2021
by Sarah Moore  
Anneke Beerten stoked on her day.

Anneke Beerten was hit by a driver that ran a red light last August as she was driving home from a day of riding at Big Bear and has been struggling with recovering from a traumatic brain injury ever since. The 2015 Queen of Crankworx and three-time 4X World Champion has had success in every discipline of mountain biking she's tried her hand at and we're hoping to see her with a number plate back on her bike before too long. We caught up with her to find out more details about the injury, what some of the things she's been doing for rehab, and how she is doing eight months after the incident.

Tell us about your most recent concussion. How did it happen? What were the first days like, weeks, months?

Mid-August 2020 I was driving home from a day of riding up at Big Bear. While crossing the last intersection from home on a green light, I all of a sudden got hit in the driver's side of my pickup truck. It was a huge impact and came out of nowhere. I lost control of my truck, skidded all over the 6 wide lane intersection, and came to a stop. I was in shock, hyperventilating, scared, and not really aware of what just had happened. Everything was just a blur. I did a quick body scan and saw that I was okay. Before I knew it, the whole intersection was filled with police cars, fire trucks and, paramedics. With a little help from an outsider, I was able to get out of my truck, still shaken up and not really aware of what was happening. I did not lose my consciousness, everything was just a blur, and I stood on the sidewalk, still figuring out what the hell just happened. Unfortunately, the other person that hit me had ran the red light.

My pickup truck got totalled and I got picked up by a friend and went home with him. That evening after the adrenaline was out of my body, I got a severe headache, stiff neck, memory loss, blurry speech and knew I was concussed. I immediately contacted my physiotherapist Dr. Joe Houde and my doctor Dr. Sten Kramer explaining to them what happened and that I needed to do a concussion test and neck and body exam. The next morning, I did the baseline concussion test and failed badly. After that, I went to see my doctor. He did some tests and examined me and came to the conclusion I sustained a concussion and whiplash. He suggested that I would go and see a sports concussion specialist.

The first days and weeks were miserable, with severe headaches, nausea, dizziness, insomnia, vertigo, neck pain, short memory, in a fog, and very sensitive to light and noise. All I could do was lay in bed or on the couch.

I was able to start seeing a concussion specialist at the Concussion Rehabilitation center. Dr. Patel has been working with many athletes. The first few weeks were very heavy and intense, I felt so out of place going there, I was surrounded by old people, some with dementia or recovering from strokes and such. I couldn't balance on one leg or walk in a straight line, with some exercises the nausea was intense that I often broke down in tears. I was having a problem with my left eye going into a spasm with certain exercises. Days became weeks, weeks became months and now, 8 months later I made some good improvements but still going to brain rehab every week to work on my progress. Next to brain rehab I also started going to vision therapy because of my vision problems. The neuro connection between the eyes, brain, and vestibular system is damaged and with therapy and rehab, I am creating new neuro-pathways.

I've been very motivated and determined these past 8 months to overcome this brain injury. Luckily, I have more good than bad days now. In the beginning I was only able to do short walks, then I started playing a bit of tennis by myself against a wall and some basketball, this all to work on my vision and hand and eye coordination. Since a few weeks I've been able to go on short e-bike rides and being able to do that again makes me feel very happy and it reminds me why I like riding so much. Riding has always been an outlet for me, and once that is gone, I'm just not me.

Anneke Beerten making her way through what is sure to be the most blown out section of the course Monkey Hands.

Why do you think it has been so difficult to recover from?

Because this was an extremely hard impact on both my neck and brain. Every concussion is different and most of my damage was done in the cerebellum of my head, and some of my neuro pathways got damaged. This type of brain injury just takes time to recover.

What does your daily therapy and rehab look like?

Depending on the day of the week I have different kinds of rehab and therapy. Currently, I am going to vision therapy 4-hours a week, I go to brain rehab for 1 hour and I see my physio once a week, I have counseling once a month, and I have checkup appointments with a neuro specialist, sports concussion specialist, and my doctor once a month. Next to that, I have a daily routine with therapy exercises I do at home. Depending on how I feel I try to go to the gym twice a week and also try to ride twice a week.
My rides and gym sessions are nothing like they were before. With both I have about a 1-hour threshold at the moment, if I try to do more it will result in overstimulation of the brain and will often cause a headache and neck tension. With riding, I have to make sure I keep my heart rate low, anything above 150bpm makes my head feel like it is going to explode. I currently just started riding my Specialized Turbo Levo e-bike on an easy cross-country trail at home. On the road, I make sure I go to a place that has not too much traffic like a park or a bike path. The noise and the distraction of the traffic cause overstimulation to the brain easily.

What do you know now about head injuries that you didn't know a year ago?

A lot!! I had no idea that it could cause all these symptoms and that you can end up in a pretty dark place. I also learned that you should never underestimate a brain injury! You can't see the severity of the injury, not from the outside, and often not even on brain scans. Luckily, I am surrounded by amazing doctors and specialists and now a day there is much more knowledge on brain injuries. But I can't stress enough that after you've hit your head that you need to go and see a specialist or someone that can perform a concussion test on you and make sure you don't return to riding and racing too quickly and get the right help to recover.

On top of the head injury, you are fighting to be able to continue living in the US. Can you say anything about that?

Yes, for over a year I have been trying to apply for a green card in the US. For the past years, I've always been in the US on a temporary visa, but I would like to secure my future here in the US and not have to stress every few years on trying to apply for a visa. Unfortunately, I have been denied twice and I just filled my application to the US immigration for the 3rd time. Fingers crossed I will get approved.

Do you think you will be able to compete again?

That is my main goal, motivation, and drive at the moment. I've been racing since the age of 4, it runs in my blood and I truly love it. The thought of not being able to compete anymore kills me.

Anneke Beerten snagged the sliver medal in dual slalom only two days after winning the enduro race.
We wish Anneke the best with her recovery and can't wait to see her out on the race course again.

Nathalie Schneitter Maghalie Rochette and Anneke Beerten for the first eMtb World Champs Women s podium.
Anneke Beerten on the podium at the first-ever eMTB World Champs at Mont-Sainte-Anne.
Photo Clint Trahan
Anneke was crowned Queen of Crankworx in 2015.

What has been the hardest part?

Mentally keeping it together is the hardest part. There have been many days that I can't do anything else than lay in bed or on the couch and let time pass by. In those moments I can not handle watching TV or scroll on my phone, all I can do is stare at the wall or close my eyes. Dealing with headaches for days at a time has been extremely draining, then on top of that, I'm dealing with sleep disruption and get about 4 to 6 hours of sleep a night. The list of symptoms that I have are long; Motion sickness, nausea, dizziness, vertigo, sensitivity to noise (earplugs are my best friends), feeling more emotional and it is challenging having to deal with this from the moment I get up in the morning till the moment I go back to bed.

Next to dealing with this injury, there is also the financial stress with medical bills and dealing with a lawsuit. It also has been challenging for me on how to share this road to recovery with the rest of the world. My sponsors have all been extremely supportive and I feel grateful for everything that they do for me. But a part of me is often scared of losing my sponsors when they see my struggles, I feel very vulnerable. One day I hope to have the courage to share more of this road to recovery, but at the moment I often have a hard time looking at videos of myself in rehab.

Although this has been difficult, I feel very lucky and grateful that I got back to the point of being able to ride again. This all could’ve been way worse, and I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the heartwarming messages I’ve been receiving from my fans and followers. It is truly inspiring, and I’ve received many massages from people with TBI’s or other injuries that are way worse than mine. And hearing these stories from other people and seeing how strong they are is really inspiring.

What are you most looking forward to?

I'm mostly looking forward to getting back to my old self and normal life. I feel far away from the person I was before the accident. I was always on the go! Love traveling, adventures, racing, riding moto, supping, camping and, hanging out with friends. I know better days are right around the corner and now that I am riding again, I feel that the puzzle is falling back into pieces quicker.

I'm also looking forward to the day I can see my family again. Because of covid and my visa, I am unable to travel back and forward to the Netherlands and it has been 2 years since I've been home. In times like these, I miss my family a lot.


  • 174 1
 Brain injuries are scary, but it's good that there is increasing acceptance, knowledge and support for them. I'm glad Pb is showing a proper recovery process, normalising it over athletes who rush back before they're ready because of sponsor pressure, impatience, or stubbornness.
  • 10 0
  • 50 0
 It's really sad to see how the Motocross community loved to see Cameran McAdoo race again on the same day after his horrific crash. And in the next race he crashed again. Organizers should really stop athletes from participating after such crashes and force them to recover
  • 49 0
 @bashhard: Rogatkin crashed very, very hard at Rampage and then carried on riding and then won the "Spirit" award for it. Really they should have pulled him out for assessment etc.
  • 4 0
 @bashhard: McAdoo passed all of the concussion tests. If you go back and watch the next race again after that crash you'd see he couldn't grip his bike due to the contusion on his leg.
  • 14 0
 It was great to see Reece Wilson and Trek pull out from Maribor last season after his crash in practice. It must have been a hard call to make with the pressure he had at the time but it set a great example of how athlete's long term wellbeing should come ahead of results.
  • 5 3
 @anickerson22: I know he technically did, but there's no way he didn't have a concussion. Also he didn't even change his helmet before racing. Complete stupidity
  • 64 0
 Anneke is such a massive part of MTB history, it’s sad to see this happen. I hope she makes a full recovery and wish her the best of health in the future.
  • 39 0
 Looking forward to your speedy full Recovery Anneke Hope you travel to see your Family Soon Desire to Ride MoTo always helps too
  • 31 0
 Not sure if Anneke will read this, but in case she does: Your vulnerability not only draws us to you, but it is a massive encouragement to so many. I will continue to check your YouTube channel for the time when you have the strength to post about your journey. I have many students that would love to hear your story. Het beste voor je.
  • 8 0
 I had no idea this happened to you, Anneke! I have always admired you and followed your career. I deleted an old IG account and lost track of you. My wife said we could get married if that would help your immigration status. Well, she would if I asked. I'm sure of that. Best wishes and heal up!!!!
  • 24 0
 Reading this was hard, triggered some stuffed down unresolved issues from my own tbi. "I'm mostly looking forward to getting back to my old self and normal life." = the dream and I will be rooting for you to get there!
  • 13 0
 Thank you for the great interview Sarah. Anneke has been my favorite for years and I feel so bad for this amazing athlete and person. When I think of what a Pro should act like, i think of Anneke. Smooth, fast and more than anything, she is the perfect role model for young aspiring mountain bikers. Be like Anneke!!
  • 13 0
 Keep working. The brain can do some amazing things when given the chance.
  • 9 0
 To one of my best friends, Anneke. I am so proud of you for sharing your story, thank you for your vulnerability! Vulnerability does not repel, it draws people in. I cannot wait to get over that border and give you a huge hug!
  • 10 0
 Hallo Anneke kom op je kan het!Het leven is soms even zwaar K..! Neus omhoog kop in de wind, en het gaat goed komen met je. Het beste met je herstel. Groetjes uit Oz.
  • 9 0
 Pinkbike, please can you do a series on concussion with some videos on concussion tests after a crash, how long to stay off the bike and activity etc etc. We need more awareness.
  • 7 0
My friend Eli had a traumatic brain injury two years ago while we were skiing that he’s still trying to recover from. You’re extremely fortunate to have great therapists and doctors to work with to get you on the path to recovery. Thanks for sharing your inspirational story. It’s helpful to other folks who have experienced similar trauma and are trying to work with less experienced doctors and therapists.
  • 7 0
 Been dealing with the same shit since last June! Hit a deer on a massive road descent.. Turns out the eyes and neck are really connected, and neck rolling and core has taken me a long way in the last month. Still in pain, but I can do a lot more than a few months ago, and I will get back to pummeling on cranks soon. Best wishes Anneke! I felt hopeless for a long time but now I believe I will make it
  • 5 0
 Dealing with long lasting injury/illness, is different to all of us, but, the goal is equal to all: go to where we were.

Time out, can bring something new in us, retrospective thinking, learning (if possible) new areas of knowledge or simple "stuff", and by the time you recover, you won't be like you were, but BETTER!

Brain Injuries are major setbacks, and brain illness is different from other illness.
Hope you recover and will be capable to ride at your level the soonest possible.
All the best!

PS: Remember that 100 years ago, everyone that would go across the pound, would have a loooong lasting trip, and could only communicate through letters. We live in a Era, where we can do video conferances in trails were there is signal! Something that everyone born before 1990 would love to do when we were kids.
  • 6 0
 Having gone through immigration, green card and naturalization here, let me tell ya. That in itself is like a concussion. But doing it while working through this? Unbelievable. Mad respect for your tenacity and courage.
  • 4 0
 This is extremely sad to hear this happening to anyone let alone someone at the top of our sport - I've gone through LOTS of the same tests, and rehabilitation process as is described in this article due to post-concussion symptoms. It is NOT FUN - any rehab where the objective is to make you feel dizzy, vomit, and push the limits of your sensory systems takes commitment and resilience. I wish Anneke the best of luck. Luckily brain plasticity is a real thing - if you rehabilitate successfully other sensory systems take over from those neurons damaged by injury and you can go on to live a 'normal' life.
  • 5 0
 All our love from over here in the French Alps. Its super tough, but we all are cheering you to recovery and enjoying life as you want to xxx
  • 3 0
 I follow her on Instagram and have been seeing her posts since regularly since the accident, it seems like a such an insanely hard journey, seeing the videos of what it takes for her for therapy is so much. Much more than even the article makes it out to be. She has gotten so much progress you can tell and that’s beautiful
  • 3 0
 Really unfortunate story. Hopefully she can get back to full recovery and start racing again. Driving tops the list as the most dangerous things most people do on a daily basis.
  • 2 0
 Keep at it and don't get in your head about it..if you feel like your going right when you try to go left (figure of speech) just take a couple deep breaths...
You will adapt don't play in past this is your course focus on moving ahead and making today yesterday and your past continues as you move forward...
  • 4 0
 You're tough, you're strong, you're determined!! Stay positive and keep fighting! Go Anneke!
  • 1 0
 Great that she's willing to speak about it. There's some bravery and will likely help others that have suffered similar. But I gotta say. Not going to the hospital after getting badly tboned seems like a bad idea. Obviously we don't know the whole story about exactly what happened. But if you have the opportunity to get taken to a Dr for immediate checkup, for the love of your brain, take it!
  • 3 0
 Please look into psilocybin's potential to treat TBI's. A former NHL hockey player founded a company called Wesana to further investigate this treatment.
  • 1 0
 Count your blessings that you are getting all this help and support in your slow but thorough recovery. Myself and another combat brother who served who suffer from TBI and recognize many of the same symptoms you speak of. All we got is half assed assistance from the VA. and disability compensation, just to spend it all and more on continous outside therapy and medical help. Needless, we both of ride find peace and to fight many a ghost. The reality is that our lives will never be as they were. GOD bless you girl, life tests us so many ways, You shall endure. Ride on.
  • 6 4
 I am curious to know if Anneke would have preferred to be back in Europe for the treatment & recovery, simply from a cost standpoint.
  • 20 0
 I'd hope the driver who rammed her is paying the bills. Or his insurance company. No idea how or for how long that works though.
  • 5 0
 Auto accidents work a little different as most of these costs end up being covered by the auto insurance companies instead of the normal health insurance. So depending on her and the other drivers policy it may not be that bad. But there is no way to know. She did mention a lawsuit which lead me to believe that the other drivers insurance isn’t paying for everything that want it too.
  • 3 0
 @sino428: I would guess lawsuit could have a lot to do with loss wages. It’s not as cut and dry as I was out of a job that pays x dollars a hour or month and I missed x days.
  • 7 0
 @sino428: keep in mind that even though insurance companies will pay it typically involves a lawyer on severe cases. Insurance companies are bastards and want to pay the least amount possible. They care about money in their pocket not your well being.
  • 1 0
 @thejake: Yes. I just meant in these type of cases the medical bills would likely be fully paid if they win the lawsuit. With regular medical bills even if you have ‘good’ insurance coverage there are often times huge out of pocket costs for severe injuries like this.
  • 3 0
 @mfoga: probably a combination. Insurance companies don’t want to pay so often it takes a lawsuit to make it happen even for medical bills. I have no idea how much she could be losing in wages. If she’s mostly paid by sponsors and they haven’t dropped her she may not really be losing any. I have no idea how she makes her money.
  • 8 0
 Hopefully she called Frank Azar. The strong arm.
  • 4 0
 @skidmarkbro: Ahh, you are a Colorado man if you know Frank! Big Grin
  • 1 1
 @sino428: The person at fault will pay if they actually have insurance and enough of it to cover the accident or is rich. If you get hit by someone poor without insurance or minimal coverage then you're still screwed.
  • 12 0
 @sino428: assuming the other driver had insurance. When I worked as a cop it was alarming how many people don’t have it, or a license for that matter. Required by law doesn’t mean anything, a car only requires a key. Always get the uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your own policy. Sure you can sue the other driver, but as grandma says “can’t get blood from a turnip”
  • 4 0
 @thejake: i've been on the other side of the spectrum, I had a former employee of mine trying to abuse the system after a mild accident, if the insurance lawyer didnt get involved since the beginning it would have costed me and the insurance company 10s of thousands. So there are both sides of the coin.
  • 1 0
 @bradwalton: even if the other person didn’t then her own auto insurance (assuming she had it) would likely cover anything that her health insurance (assuming she had that) did not cover. My main point is only that getting hurt in an auto accident in the US is probably better than suffering the same injury some other way. Not great or perfect in any way, but there is the additional layer over possible coverage over just regular health insurance.
  • 1 0
 @sino428: incorrect. Uninsured motorist coverage is an option. Check your policy.
  • 2 2
 @Narro2: this is often the case. Fortunately proving someone is a lying sack of shit is not all that difficult. Seems like a lot of people that claim “nagging life altering injuries” still manage to go out and play as much as they want.
  • 3 0
 Stay positive and best regards, especially tough to have this happen during the pandemic. Glad she is still enjoying riding.
  • 3 1
 I wonder what truck she was driving. Side curtain airbags are designed to prevent this sort of injury, so I'm curious if she had them?
  • 1 0
 I'd like to know too
  • 1 6
flag maverik3004 (Apr 30, 2021 at 12:25) (Below Threshold)
 I think her Dodge got Rammed
  • 2 0
 She mentioned the majority of her tbi occurring in her cerebellum. It may not have mattered whether there were side curtain air bags, because of the coupe-contrecoup effect on the brain during whiplash that is likely the thing that damaged her cerebellum. Basically, the brain, suspended in cerebrospinal fluid, gets hit by the inside of the skull due to extreme acceleration/deceleration of the skull bones. That's basically how all TBI's occur that occur without foreign object intrusion or broken skull bones.
  • 2 0
 Wishing you the best recovery as possible! May we see you again shredding at crankworx, were you belong!
  • 2 0
 hopefully the driver pays a heavy price for the damages to Anneke. Completely avoidable situation
  • 2 0
 Best wishes. Note she is using an e-bike to ease back into riding. Another excellent application of this techology.
  • 3 0
 Here's to a complete and full recovery, Anneke!
  • 1 0
 Best wishes for a full recovery. And also for an absolute trouncing of your red-light runner in court and a proper payout to match your suffering.
  • 2 0
 You got this Anneke! So sorry you have to go through all of this. With your strength and determination you will overcome.
  • 1 0
 All the best wishes for Anneke and massive props for showing a recovery process that isn´t as easy as it´s supposed to be - hang in there, you got this!
  • 2 0
 Tough girl ! Hope you fully recover from this bad experience.
  • 1 0
 SoCal drivers are some of the absolute worst in the country. Good luck in your recovery.
  • 1 0
 go anneke! fingers crossed you can get back to normal, devastating story.
  • 1 0
 What a champ, hope she gets well soon.
  • 1 0
 goede beterschap Anneke en ik hoop dat t met t visum gaat lukken
  • 1 0
 Laguna rads wish u well!!
  • 3 5
 Somebody marry her so she can stop stressing the immigration stuff. (JOKING)

Pull thru Ms Beerten!
  • 3 0
 They see through that pretty easily. Those days are long gone.
  • 1 0
 @noplacelikeloam: You're not watching enough 90 Day Fiancee
  • 2 0
 @suspended-flesh: trying not to. ;-)
  • 1 0
 @noplacelikeloam: uh....? No they don’t lmfao.
  • 1 0
 @nvranka: I assure you, they do. Having gone through it myself. There is the evidence you provide, separate interviews, various background checks etc etc. and hey, get found later? Deportation and jail time. Only an idiot would do this.
  • 2 1
 @noplacelikeloam: you do it with a friend....of which I’m sure anneke has many. It’s a mutual commitment and really isn’t hard to pull off, I have several friends who have.

Don’t be dumb lol
  • 1 0
 @nvranka: because avoiding a felony is dumb? Wake up.
  • 1 0
 @noplacelikeloam: They could love each other easily, too. Where did the romance go?
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