Another motorcycle racing career has been ended by a brain injury. Davi Millsaps announced his retirement today.
Millsaps was injured in October while training, not long after he was signed by the Monster Energy/Knich/Yamaha Factory Racing team. Initially, reports focused on Millsaps' broken elbow, but he later confirmed he also suffered a severe concussion. In his statement today, Millsaps elaborated that the brain injury had been worse than most of us realized.
As a result, he has decided not to try a return to racing for one more season, as originally planned.
"I say this with great sadness, and this is definitely not how I wanted to end my career," Millsaps said in a statement. "But health is a priority. When the doctor told me that he couldn’t release me due to the risk that another impact on my head could be life-altering, not to mention life-threatening, it was pretty tough news for me to swallow. The reality of retirement was very hard to face. It brings out a bag of so many mixed emotions. It saddens me greatly to have to go out like this."
The MotoAmerica road racing series and the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship have implemented concussion protocols in recent years as awareness of the danger of brain injuries has grown in other professional sports, particularly the NFL. A year ago, MotoAmerica racer Josh Day announced that he was reluctantly retiring after multiple concussions. Like Millsaps, Day faced the possibility that the next one could cause irreversible damage, and a head injury is always a risk in motorcycle racing.
Motocross racing careers tend to start and end early. Like many other pros, Millsaps began riding a motorcycle while he was still three years old. So even though he was a wiry teenager when I watched him win the AMA Horizon Award as an amateur in 2003 (when he was still occasionally roosting dirt into the face of another scrawny kid named Ryan Villopoto), Millsaps had already been racing many years by that point. Still, it's tough to see any young person's racing career come to a forced end instead of a chosen one.
There are only two good things about this: Millsaps' retirement will shine even more light on the importance of taking brain injuries seriously, instead of laughing them off as we did when I was a kid. And second, Davi Millsaps walked away while he can still play with his kids, dance with his wife and enjoy many years after racing.