During X Games 16 practice last summer, Van Homan fell backwards onto his head without a helmet on. Initially, Van believed he had a slight concussion, but during that night, things took a turn for the worse and Van was hospitalized for a fractured skull and bleeding and bruising on the frontal lobe of his brain.
Van spent several days in the hospital recovering. "Doctors wanted to make sure that my brain didn't swell, so I was given all kinds of stuff to keep the swelling down. They kept monitoring me to make sure there was no more bleeding," said Van following the injury.
Because of his injury, Van completely missed the event, and was forced to drive home to New Jersey from Los Angeles to avoid putting any added pressure on his brain. Van was off his bike for two months and three weeks.
While in recovery, Van's approach to helmets changed. Prior to the injury, Van actually wore his helmet while riding park and trails. But on street, he didn't. Last October, Van returned to riding, and I asked him about future helmet use.
You don't want to think about the fact that you're doing something dangerous. You want it to feel second nature, but the truth is, it's dangerous.
"I will definitely wear a helmet a lot more," said Van. "Park and trails, it doesn't even faze me. Street is a little weird though. I've been doing it for so long, and it's a natural thing to just walk out the door and ride. You don't want to think about the fact that you're doing something dangerous. You want it to feel second nature, but the truth is, it's dangerous. But I'm definitely going to wear a helmet a lot more. More for my family than even myself. I don't want to put them through what they had to go through again, or God forbid, worse."
Currently, following this week's release of the latest volume of Fit Bike Co.'s "Trippin" series, Van Homan seems to be 110% back on his game and riding with a helmet on street, park and trails. And if the video is any indication of things to come, it seems as though Van's use of a helmet is rubbing off on his Fit teammates, including Shawn McIntosh, who is wearing a helmet in part of the video.
But there's a bigger question here: why was helmet use not being enforced during BMX Street last year at the X Games? Helmets are required in BMX Park, and Full-face helmets are required in both Vert and Big Air. But in Street, pros didn't have to. What made Street so different from the other competitive aspects of BMX that it was exempt from helmet use?
Unfortunately, there was no real reason.
This year, in part because Van was injured last year, helmets are now being enforced for BMX Street at the X Games. So Van's injury did promote a change for the better in the competitive aspect of BMX Street, but will other competition organizers follow? And should helmets be mandatory for all aspects of competition in BMX?
Register and comment below. And by the way, it's good to have you back in one piece Van Homan.
HEAD TRAUMA ON ESPN BMX
- Head Injuries in Action Sports
- Part 1: Brian Yeagle
- Part 2: Jimmy Levan
- Part 3: Gary Young
- Part 4: Brian Foster
- Part 5: Van Homan