Jeremy Martin hasn’t been on a motorbike in nearly 13 months.
But the Millville native has learned a lot about himself during that time, and he’s come to discover just how passionate he is about a sport that – for now – he can only watch.
“For sure, it sucks,” Martin said. “I’ve never had an injury keep me out for more than about six months. To be out more than a year has been a pretty big culture shock.”
Martin will be on the sidelines again this weekend when the AMA Pro Motocross national championship series makes its annual stop at the track where he grew up, Spring Creek MX Park near Millville, a track owned and operated by Martin’s parents, John and Greta.
Opening ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, with pro motos set to start at 1 p.m.
“I’d love to be able to help my parents this week,” Martin said, “but right now I’m almost ready to be able to start normal physical activity again.”
Martin’s setback occurred when he and fellow veteran rider Justin Cooper hit a jump at the same time on June 23, 2018, during an AMA Pro Motocross race at Muddy Creek Raceway in Blountville, Tenn.
Martin held his line, but as Cooper descended toward the track, he reached up to peel away a tear-off from his helmet. As he did that, he turned his bike to the left, causing him to collide with Martin and send them both tumbling.
Cooper got back on his bike and finished the moto.
Martin suffered a broken back.
“It was just a racing incident,” Martin said. “I didn’t quite understand what he was doing. Unfortunately I got the bad end of the stick and broke my back.”
The injury ended Martin’s 2018 season, one in which he was convinced he was headed for his third national championship in the 250 Class.
Recovery has been a long road for the 26-year-old Martin – who earned the No. 1 plate for his bike by winning 250 Class national titles in 2014 and 2015. He was the series runner-up in 2017.
He had emergency surgery in Tennessee just hours after the crash, in which he suffered a burst fracture of his L1 vertebrae. He remained there for nearly two weeks before being transported to the Mayo Clinic via a medical jet in early July of last year. Martin underwent another surgery there, then spent 10 more days in the hospital.
“It puts things in perspective as far as what I love to do,” Martin said. “I love waking up every day and looking to get better. I’ve been in a weird state for a year, but it’s part of life. Not everything goes your way all the time.”
Though he was following his rehabilitation schedule perfectly, Martin still wasn’t feeling comfortable as fall of 2018 began to turn to winter. So he consulted with doctors at the world-renowned Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo.
“The doctors there fixed me up really good,” Martin said. “I see the doctor again in mid-August and he’s the deciding factor about when I can get back to running and exercising, putting around on my bike and building up from there.”
Martin’s Geico Honda team has more than stuck with him through the past year. In December, the team gave him the ultimate vote of confidence in his ability to bounce back when they signed him to a two-year contract extension that will carry through the 2021 season.
“It’s definitely a relief knowing, you have a broken back and you’re going back for a second surgery but your team believes in you enough that you can come back and perform again at a high level,” Martin said. “When I ride a bike I wake up every day and truly look forward to the challenges of it, whether it’s the travel or going to the gym or testing.
“It’s what I truly love.”