The State of Nicky Hayden Ahead of Catalunya MotoGP

The State of Nicky Hayden Ahead of Catalunya MotoGP
Drive M7 Aspar's Nicky Hayden
The State of Nicky Hayden Ahead of Catalunya MotoGP
Drive M7 Aspar’s Nicky Hayden

Nicky Hayden Injury Update

At this time last year, paddock rumors were circulating that Nicky Hayden would retire from MotoGP. The gossip began when it was leaked that Ducati was not going to renew the American’s contract following his five-year relationship with the Italian manufacturer.

Indeed, retirement from MotoGP looked to be the case by September, which saw the 2006 MotoGP World Champion testing a Ducati Superbike at the Mugello circuit. But Nicky turned down the offer to compete in World Superbike to stay in the World Championship when an offer arose with DRIVE M7 Aspar.

The Kentuckian took it, stepping down from prototype bikes and into the Open Class of bikes (which are heavily tuned production engines in a prototype chassis).

The season started out well at Qatar, though Hayden was clear that he wasn’t happy with the lack of power of the Open Class bike. But at the next round in Jerez, an injury he sustained at Valencia in 2011 had reappeared.

This was not the first time the injury had plagued him; Hayden underwent surgery in 2013 in attempt to correct a problem stemming from a broken scaphoid. But this only offered temporary success. The same wrist became inflamed and painful following the qualifying session at the Spanish GP. Nicky managed to compete in the race, finishing 11th, but opted to sit out the day of testing on the Monday following the GP.

Hayden was treated with injections before the next round at Le Mans to reduce the swelling, but he crashed on the first lap after contact with Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone, further aggravating his injury.

Two weeks later at Mugello, the 2006 World Champion struggled with the injury during Friday practice, completing just 11 laps before retiring for the weekend (and missing a day of testing on Monday at Mugello) due to pain and swelling in his wrist. A surgery was scheduled for the following week, which involved an arthroscopic cleaning of scar tissue carried out by Dr. Riccardo Luchetti in Italy.

Nicky remains confident when asked about the condition of his wrist, reporting upon his arrival to the Catalunya circuit this weekend: “The operation last week went better than expected and I feel considerably better than at Mugello.”

When asked about the long term state of the injury, he responded with a smile: “After this many operations it’s probably never going to completely recover, but most racers here don’t have complete wrists. Maybe some Moto3 riders have great wrists but not by the time you get to MotoGP!”

But the paddock rumor is that the state of his wrist is so questionable as to force the question of his retirement. Unofficial reports inform us that the inflammation is due to the deterioration of cartilage between the bones.

Evidently the solutions for this kind of degenerative wrist condition are extreme. One option is fusion, which motocross riders tend to do with this type of injury. The other is to undergo monthly injections to put some material between the bones where the cartilage has disappeared. And the third is retirement.

Option two would be the most desirable choice in this situation, because while option one would give his wrist stability and reduce the friction that causes swelling and pain, obviously the lack of flexion would be a hindrance for road racing, unlike motocross where less wrist flexion is required. Though the concern is that riding with a constantly compromised wrist will affect race results.

For the moment, Hayden is taking it one day at a time: “My main problem is my right hand when braking, but it’s something I already had in mind, so I’m willing to deal with this situation.”

As of this writing, Hayden qualified 16th at Catalunya MotoGP, round seven of 18 in 2014 MotoGP.