Connor Cummins: 'The scars are cool'

Published: 19 May 2016

Manx hero Conor Cummins had done a 131.123mph lap from a standing start before his fateful 2010 Senior TT smash at the Verandah. MCN caught up with the gutsy Kawasaki rider shortly before leaving Noble’s Hospital, where he was proud to show us his scars. 

MCN: So, big man, how are things?

Conor: You know, I can’t complain. It could be a lot worse, I could be 10ft under! I’ve been really lucky.

You sound positive and upbeat.

Yeah, I’ve given myself a kick up the arse recently. I’ve been down, but I’m getting there now, slowly. I just want to get back on a bike, race and be active. Can’t cope with all this sat around stuff.

So you’re starting to get mobile again?

I’m getting there. I can walk about 50 feet-ish, with help. So at least I can go to the toilet now, sort of. Problem is, my injuries are so bad I’m all lop-sided – all my left side is knackered. I still can’t move my hand properly and my left shoulder is bust up, so I can’t use crutches! I’ve got a big cage on my leg, I have to sleep on my back, so I’m a long way of. But I’ve had massive injuries, so I have to be positive. The hospital staff – doctors, nurses, everyone – have been mega, both here on the Isle of Man and in Liverpool. Massive respect for them.

Which bones did you actually break?

My back was a mess. I broke five vertebrae, had instability in my back and was so close to losing feeling. It’s no joke, man. I’m really lucky just to have feeling ,never mind move. The surgeons in Liverpool have done a shit-hot job and put in these rods that run down my spine to keep everything together and give it stability. They’re about 10 inches long, maybe a little bigger. I’ve only seen pictures of them on the x-ray – they look amazing. I’ve got to have the rods in for about two and a half years. They’ll still be in when I’m racing again.

Wasn’t your leg broken as well?

Actually no, but there’s proper ligament and nerve damage, and it’s twisted and dislocated really badly. When the air ambulance and paramedics got to me, they noticed I had no pulse down my leg – the twisting and dislocation had trapped the main artery, so there was no blood going down there. I couldn’t feel anything, apparently. The doc was amazing – felt my leg through the leathers, realised what was wrong and pushed it all back in right there and then, in the grass at the side of the road. If he hadn’t done that, I would have lost my leg. I owe that man my leg. Imagine all that was going on and he felt through my leathers, felt my knee and everything, worked it all out, popped it back in. Amazing!

So how have they fixed your knee?

Well there’s no stability – it will just collapse and pop out if I put any weight on it. I’ve got an X-fit cage around it, with rods and pins – four big pins going into the bone to hold it all in place. I can’t move it or anything like that, that’s why I have to sleep on my back all the time, which is a pain. But it comes off soon and I’ll get a big brace, like a motocross brace – then I can start moving about. I should be able to start physio – I want to get moving and racing again soon as I can.

So how do you move now?

I’m kind of using a wheelchair, but it’s not much good as I can’t really push myself as my arm is so bad. I can move my fingers, but not my wrist and hand, due to nerve damage further up my arm.There was a bad break to the humerus [upper arm], so I’ve got lots of screws and two massive plates holding it all together. I’ve got 10 screws in each plate. The scars are mega, proper cool.

You’ll be setting of metal detectors in airports when you go to Macau!

Ha-ha, too right, but it won’t be this year. Hopefully next year I’ll go, as I love going over there. I miss racing already.

How has it all affected you mentally?

I didn’t realise how much you take for granted. Everything has to be planned, as I can’t move on my own – even going to the toilet. When you’re on your back, wearing a nappy-type thing, can’t move, it’s mega-depressing and embarrassing. But the staff have been amazing and I’ve had so much support from locals and well wishers. I never knew how popular I was. It’s really helped. 

So have you ever questioned making a return to racing? 

I love bikes, racing and the TT. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do – and still do. The first thing I said after the crash was I wanted to be back. In the helicopter I was just gutted I hadn’t finished the race, as I was doing so well and my times were good, the bike was good... I was gutted for the McAdoo team and the fans. 

What went wrong at the Verandah?

I can’t really remember the crash. I keep getting flashbacks of flying through the air, but I don’t know if they are dreams or true. A few guys have seen the footage – the TV helicopter was on me at the time – and they say I lost the front. They’ve kept the footage, but it’s so bad they don’t want anyone to see it. I’m unsure if I want to see it – maybe when I’m fit. It’s fourth or fifth gear and 150mph there. I was going for it, but just the same as before. I lost the front, apparently. It was windy that day, maybe that was it. 

There was a huge black line and marks on the road the next day...

I’ve been told there were marks on the road for ages. I cleared the wall and the fence, which was lucky. Eyewitnesses say I was 40ft up in the air. I ended up 150 yards down the hill.

How has it affected your loved ones?

They are worried, but it’s different over here, you grow up with racing and crashing, it happens. My dad’s been racing for years, he raced at the Southern 100 just the other week. The missus has been right by my side throughout, a big help. My family have been through a lot of stress, but know racing is what I want to do. so I’ll be back.

What are your comeback plans?

I want to be back for the start of British Superstock next year, then back on the roads. I’ve got lots of hard work in front of me to build back my strength, but other racers have done the same – look at Doohan. I love racing bikes and want to be back soon as I can. 

Words Adam Child