The Concussion Taj Doesn't Regret: A Story From the BMX Days - Sunday Comics with Taj Mihelich

Apr 21, 2019
by Taj Mihelich  
“How are your balls?” said my friend with a straight face. I hadn’t seen him in a year.

I was confused. This was a friend I liked a lot but we’d never really covered this subject matter. Or, maybe this was some new greeting I hadn’t yet heard?

My bewilderment must have been obvious because he went on, “You know, from your crash on the vert ramp?”

I didn't know what he was talking about. Being a BMX pro for many years means you tend to forget things.

People love to ask what my worst injury was. These days I always say concussions. The echoes of those seem to be the only injuries that still have an impact on my life. For a CTE research study that I’m part of I worked out near 30 out-cold knock outs (and who knows how many head bonks that I just kept riding through). It isn’t good, I know, but back in the old days of BMX contests it was like being a gladiator… you rode until either your bike was broken or you were. 

In my opinion one of the coolest feelings in the bike world is a nice smooth landing on a vert ramp. The way you come in front-wheel-first and pointed straight-down is like nothing else. A big air can have such a gentle landing you hardly know you’re back on the ramp. Or at least, that’s how it is supposed to work. I lacked the graceful finesse of the real vert ramp masters. All too often I’d hang up on the coping and get pitched forward, bouncing my head off the bottom of the ramp. 

One of those knock-outs was what my friend was asking about. It was at a vert event in England, but I don’t remember which one. My memory restarts in the back of ambulance wondering where I was. 

My friend explained that I was coming in from an air a bit out of shape. I was tucked behind the seat trying to cheat my way back into the ramp. I hung up back wheel, sat on the tire and got bucked head first into the flat bottom. During the hang up my dangly bits got sucked in between the tire and the seat stay. When folks ran out on to the ramp to try and help they found me knocked incoherent and “connected” to my bike. They tried to pull the bike away but it wouldn’t budge. At one point someone was trying to flip the bike upside down so they could remove the back wheel with a socket wrench... twisting up the parts of me pinched between the tire and frame.

My friend (or perhaps my hero) said, “I was the one who thought to let the air out of your tire so we could free you.” 

Take it from me, concussions are bad for you. Wear your helmet and do your best to not crash on your head. However, if you were going to suffer some minor amnesia, the memory of having your balls crushed in your back wheel is a good one to lose.

MENTIONS: @Tajlucas


  • 110 0
 Similar thing happened to me but it was with a vacuum.
  • 4 2
  • 17 1
 I said don't bother me when im leaning my room!!!!
  • 1 1
 Best comment on pinkbike ever.
  • 2 0
 @nug12182: If @Apex06 was unconscious too, it would be nice if indeed one of those helpers thought of turning the machine off. Especially if it is one with these rotating brushes.
  • 2 0
 I wish I was more mature so I didn't burst out laughing at that!
  • 3 0
 @EckNZ: Why? It could just be an accident. I have a robot vacuum cleaner (with rotating brushes). It is great because we no longer have to worry about how much dirt we carry into the house. But I need to be mindful that I can't just sleep naked on the living room floor anymore. Bummer, because it used to be an excellent way to scare off burglars. Maybe @Apex06 just forgot to adapt his lifestyle.
  • 2 0
 @vinay: LOL... ok, this thread got out of control fast.
  • 1 0
 Was it a Henry or a Henrietta?
  • 50 2
 Taj - your a legend. Had the pleasure of riding with you back in the 90’s at Purses/KB’s house in conroe, tx. You and Joe were killing everything. Rad times but the lack of knowledge around concussions and cte is scary in retrospect. We never wore helmets, and now I'm always questioning why i dont remember chunks.

Im sure I'm not the only one who’d like to hear the results of the study, hopefully we can get it tacked onto pinkbike...

And hopefully your brain is good!!
  • 47 1
 Buddy of mine Aaron Ryan died at work, leaving his wife a 3 year old and one in the oven because of a bike related concussion. You see, about 2 weeks earlier, he had what he thought was a minor crash with a car. No fault type of thing, he didn't think much of it. This wasn't the first time he had a run-in with a car. He sort of got cut off riding in the person's blind spot. He hit the pavement, bike got a little banged up but, he road away. A day after, he gave me a call saying he'd need to bring his bike in to fix some things. He was a hard core biker, fast as a hoot XC, road fixie to work nearly ever day of the week. When he raced with us, he was only a few ticks slower than the pros. And... as a swimmer, he was insanely fast. Swimming was actually 'his thing'. We did a 6 hour XC event once.. we finished and then he went swimming for like 2 hours. When he occasionally worked for me, he road 25 miles from home, worked all day, road back home, taking the long way back. Anyway -- about 10, 11 days after the crash, he had been telling his wife he hasn't been feeling that great for a few days. Made a Dr appointment but, he died at his desk at his office of a brain aneurysm before ever getting out to see the Dr. Well, based on some fact checking, he had a concussion but never addressed it. he didn't take time off from the bike, didn't do those typical things you do when you get a concussion. rest - time off screens - eat lots of protein, etc. I think he was 32 when he died. OK, I don't know if he was wearing a helmet. That part I wish I knew. Either way, concussions are no joke. I see a lot of skate and BMX'y kids scooting around with no helmets, drives me nuts
  • 7 0
 My cousin had a nearly similar experience from a car vs. motorcycle crash. Headache for a few days, then became incoherent one morning at the breakfast table. He was rushed into emergency neuro surgery, and thankfully lived. Now he has a huge zipper scar for memorabilia. Love thy noggen y'all!!
  • 6 0
 A friend HAD a helmet on. She slipped while stopped to put her foot on a curb and hit her head. She stood up and was a bit shaken but seemed otherwise fine. About 10 minutes later she stopped responding, nearly stopped breathing, and thankfully we were close to a hospital. She had a brain bleed and fortunately made it through after a few months in the Neuro ICU (ventilator, skull plate removed to relieve pressure, everything). She is still recovering almost 2 years later, but after that I'm never without a helmet. And being in the medical field, I'm extra cautious when I or my friends have a crash. Respect ya head!!
  • 2 0
 Really sad story, concussions are no joke.

My father was a great ski racer, and had fun in his mid 40s in masters races (2nd overall in the Italian championship). During a course check at the finish line. One of his skis got stuck, he fell and hit his head.
After little time he was flown with the helicopter to the hospital. Luckily he had just a bad concussion and amnesia, but the scare was real, especially for me being 11 years old back then!

Oh, and he had a POC helmet. The safest of them all
  • 1 0

yeah -- I have 17 triplet boys.... one of them has had 2 concussions -- one baseball related, one goofing around with friends (they literally dropped him on his head). My boys girlfriend plays tennis for her highschool, she's got clobbered with a racket, playing doubles and she's got a mild concussion from that. She was all woozy for have a day.

I see youtube's all the time with people riding stuff on pavement all the time, doing some crazy stunts, lots of crashes -- I would never do that stuff without a helmet. that's just asking for trouble
  • 1 0
 Having learned so much about concussions in the past few years, it becomes the more baffling to me how it can still be considered an inherent part of a top (and olympic) sport like boxing.

I've had a good few concussions though only one of them was from a bicycle crash (and I was wearing a helmet). The other ones: getting hit by a car when crossing the street as a kid, jumping too high from a flight of stairs and hitting my head against the wall above it (just running). Worst of all, when I've been laughing for too long I also have not been breathing for that long so at some point I faint and go down. I once hit my head against a heavy flowerpot on the way down. That was a bad one and got me out of the running for a good couple of weeks. I've learned to sit or lie down when I'm laughing for too long though, just to be sure. But yeah, you can get concussions pretty much everywhere and not necessarily in places where you're supposed to wear a helmet. You can't live in a cocoon all your life.

My last concussion (I recall) was the one against the flowerpot, 2011 or so. Strange enough even then you weren't really given the necessary information. It was, yeah you have a concussion, have someone wake you up every two hours, take it easy a few days and then see how it goes. It really took me a couple of articles on Pinkbike and Kali to really understand the severity of it all and mostly, that I as a patient am not in the position to decide whether I'm good or not. That's a big one. Especially for us outdoor sports enthusiasts. When the sun is out, the trails are calling, we do feel good. We'd only feel more miserable if we can't go. So apparently we do need an expert to do that for us. Strange enough no doctor ever did that. Not sure if they even do it now.

But yeah to pick up competitive boxing. To develop a strong body, great reflexes, endurance, to then take a beating until just can't control all that. It doesn't really make sense and I doubt many will do it if they realized this up front. My girlfriend used to be into karate though I don't think the ever went even close to knock-outs, just for style and points. She's been into running and yoga for the past few years but now she's bored and wants to get into mountainbiking. Yay!
  • 2 0
 COVER YOUR HEAD BEFORE YOU SHRED!!!!! helmets have saved my life at least twice, kept my day safe many times and big dents and deep scratches in my helmets can show for that!
  • 1 0
 I extend this too people skiing and boarding with no helmets on.

My helmet has saved me so many times, and always in ways I didn't expect. Things like a ski that prereleased coming and hitting the back of my head, or (most memorably) being knocked unconscious by ice falling from the chairlift.

Any time I can wear a helmet, I do
  • 2 0
 Loooong time ago, I was skate boarding to a friends house so we could go out on our dirt bikes. We were working on our dirt bikes in his garage and I skate boarded back to my house to get some stuff. I just happened to be wearing my MX helmet cuz my hands were full with tools. I went to turn into his drive way and WAABAAAAM!!! I hit pavement when I slid thru a sandy patch I didn't see. man, I hit super hard to the point I was seeing stars for a few minutes, so lucky I had a MX helmet on. geez, if I didn't happen to have that helmet on, I wouldn't be here typing this memory.
  • 14 0
 They had to lower the tire pressure to get your twig and berries out? Dang... That's crash.
  • 2 0
 No, THAT’s a set of BALLS!!

Taj had the best one footed cans ever to grace the glossy pages of a magazine.
  • 7 0
 "I got my nuts real good" Taj RF1

BMX Pride Of Michigan!
  • 2 0
 Always wondered what these carbon fenders would do in a scenario like taj's.

Any bike manufacturer reading this? No more carbon balls chop offs as damper fenders, please. Use some medium elastic plastic or something.
  • 2 0
 Shouldn't have made the wishbone so tight on the frame! I loved my taj frame, one of the best back in the day. Concussion is scary, only had two myself but as a rugby coach and rfu first aider it's drilled into me exactly how lethal they can be.
  • 2 0
 Taj, you were always a bad ass on a bike! I remember watching you do a sprocket slide across a spine in one of the Expendable movies.....I went out, dodgied up a bash guard to my Deebo and tried it at the park that afternoon (the sprocket bash guard worked well) but after getting too cocky, I over cooked it and pitched it too far forward and landed flat on my head from an 8' spine. Concussions suck the proverbial fat one and ever since then I have always worn a helmet (even when dicking around in the parking lot of indoor parks foing manuals). Look after your heads people (and mega props (no pun intended) for taking part in the CTE study, wish something like that would kick off here in Oz)
  • 1 0
 +1 for the deebo. Best bike I ever owned...with alex triple wall rims the thing was a tank, and I was quite a bad dirt jumper so a tank was needed!
  • 5 0
 Good advice from someone who, thank god, can remember to give it !
  • 1 0
 I have a couple of friends missing parts due to that same scenario. I had a torsion once from it as well. Then I wore a cup for learning barspins and hands free tricks. Cups suck riding in, but it can keep it from jamming in there. I'd take chaffing and bruising over missing my boys....
  • 1 0
 I remember when Keith Duly split his ball sack at Backyard Jam 94 or 95? It was the one when Taj tail whipped the 20ft double, which at the time was pretty F'in sick
I didn't see but apparently they look like Li Chi friuts......
  • 1 0
 Taj, I'm hoping you are well and love your contributions to PB. Definitely one of my favorite BMX riders of all time!
I have had multiple concussions via skateboarding and BMX/cycling crashes....all wearing helmets. I have been awakened on the flat of a vert ramp or bottom of a pool many times. Sometimes actually snoring. I actually got my naughty bits in the same area of my frame by snapping a crank arm off. Kinda wish I wasn't awake for that one! I pissed blood for a couple of weeks. Still wearing a helmet at all times. If you get KO'd with a helmet on, imagine what would happen without it!
  • 1 0
 Taj! Loved watching you ride growing up, love your art now! As a well-worn rider with my own back injuries (not from the crazy shit you did), you’re an inspiration in more ways than one! A true talent!
  • 1 0
 This reminds me of the old salty Pirate who walked in to a bar with the ship's wheel stuck to his junk. When the bartender pointed the situation out to the pirate, the Pirate said: "ARH..., SHE'S DRIVE'IN ME NUTZ!"
  • 1 0
 Owww. That’s the worst. Vert ramp gone bad and your dangly bits sucked into the rear end.

Glad you’re still good though.
  • 3 0
 More of these please!
  • 2 0
 I’ve heard of chub rub on the 29ers. Worst case scenario??
  • 8 0
 Home made winter studs with 300 steel tips ripping you...
  • 1 0
 Got my nads caught up more than a few times, don't need them anymore, thankfully.
What's with the rabbit people?
  • 1 0
 Digging the seat stay wishbone on that last illustration. @tajlucas you remain my hero
  • 1 0
 Tricks are for kids you silly rabbit. Great story that put a smile on my face from the first sentence to the end.
  • 2 0
 Well, its no news but you can calla it a good ‘press release’
  • 2 0
 hahah gold!
  • 1 0
 Obviously you have BALLS OF STEEL Taj! Smile
  • 3 0
 Or Taffy now.
  • 2 0
  • 1 0
 Where ya at JC? This calls for the seat rail through the satchel story
  • 2 1
 in mips I trust
  • 16 0
 Not going to do a lot for your bollocks though
  • 3 0
 @el-nombre: you haven’t seen the new mips trademarked cups?
  • 2 0
 MIPS about 30 years to late
  • 6 3
 if you think MIPS will save you from concussions like bonking the coping of a 6+ft ramp, you should scan yourself for previous concussions. Every piece of protection decreases the severity of a crash, it doesn’t eliminate the chance of an injury. Even the best protection in the world shouldn’t give you any boost of confidence. I’ve seen folks padded up from head to toes in the skate park, they still ate it hard.

Taj: airing out is scary as hell. Vast mjority of MTBers won’t even drop into the halfpipe.
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: my last concussion was MIPS equipped.
Glad I had it. Still rocked me for a couple weeks.
  • 2 0
 @CanBLine: well, you will never know whether Mips saved you. Glad you are ok. Cheers!
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: The vast majority of Mountainbikers think a wedge ramp is a "steep lip"
  • 2 0
 @MQTBMX: everyone knows a wedge ramp is made of cheese
  • 1 0

Absolutely, 100% spot on. Add another 6ft to your ramp suggestion, and protection factor drops.

Riding vert is amazing tho.

Who would ever think that "technology" is awash in marketing lies and garbage. Not in cycling...
  • 1 0
 @jjwillTOmaui: it’s beyond my expertize. I can air out 3ft on a DJ and I sht myself every time I don’t feel my rear hitting the coping distinctively on the way up. I dropped into a rather steep 10ft deep bowl once, my front wheel wobbled at the bottom and I flew off my bike to the side. I was shaken to say the least... doing it on a bmx is on another level. Not to mention BMX dirt jumps with 70 deg take offs and landings with 10ft gaps in between.
  • 2 5
 With as many full-on concussions as you have, it's understandable that you could forget something like that. It's a miracle that you can still write and draw.

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