On July 4, 2013, Kendra Brocker went off a jump during a Motocross competition in southern Michigan, soaring 30 feet into the air.
But another competitor bumped her mid-air, forcing Brocker to abandon her vehicle, which was certain to crash.
Brocker, then 16 years old, plummeted to the ground and, in an unnatural act, landed on her feet after falling 30 feet. The pain ricocheted through her entire body.
“I thought both my legs were broken,” she said.
Brocker, in fact, broke one leg. She had a severe tibial plateau fracture just below the knee, and a torn meniscus in the knee.
The ambulance rushed her to a hospital in northern Indiana, close to the track where the crash occurred. But after the X-rays, her mother called James Lebolt, DO, with Spectrum Health Medical Group Sports Medicine, for a second opinion. Dr. Lebolt, who specializes in sports orthopedic surgery and is a former team surgeon for Virginia Tech athletics, had treated Brocker’s father, also a Motocross competitor.
Brocker’s family received conflicting reports on the X-rays, she said, so the family decided to go with Dr. Lebolt based on their shared history with him.
Within six days, Dr. Lebolt had scheduled an MRI, diagnosed the extent of the injury and surgically repaired the fracture and meniscus.
“That fracture looks like someone took a hammer and hit the bone, compressed the bone,” Dr. Lebolt said. “We were able to restore the height, and used a plate and screws to keep it there long enough to heal correctly.”
Brocker was in a wheelchair for several weeks and on crutches another 4-6 weeks. By late autumn, she was back on her Motocross bike.
“I even snowboarded that winter,” she said.
Since the operation, Brocker has become one of the top female Motocross athletes in Michigan. She raced in eight events this year, and earned first place in all eight.
She plans to race in the acclaimed SJO Productions Motocross series in 2016.
Dr. Lebolt said Brocker’s injury wasn’t unusual for motocross athletes, just more severe than most.
“We tend to see more fractures in these types of athletes because the collisions are a little harder and they actually fracture bones,” Dr. Lebolt said. “But when the fracture extends into the joint like Kendra’s, it can disrupt the cartilage, which can lead to arthritis. … We were glad to be able to get it to heal fully and avoid those long-term problems.”
This isn’t the first injury Brocker has had to overcome. She sprained a ligament in her foot in 2014, which Spectrum Health doctors also treated. She had a clavicle fracture in 2011. And in September 2014, more than a year after her surgery to repair her tibial fracture, the doctors performed another operation to remove the plate and screws from her knee.
But overcome she has. If she had the money to move south and train year-round, Brocker, now a 19-year-old college student, says she would consider trying to make a career out of Motocross.
“I plan to do it as long as my body will (allow),” she said.
With a little help from her doctors, that now seems like it might be a long ways in the future.