Mel Pocock Story
We all like stories about heroes and impossible situations. Here is an unlikely story about a European motocross racer name Mel Pocock. Mel hails from England and competes in the British and MXGP championships. Mel Pocock is a likable redhead by nature from East Sussex, England whose family has a strong tradition racing motocross. Mel had all of the attributes of a typical up-and-coming motocross racer growing up. He worked his way through the amateur ranks and achieving his professional racing license and getting picked up by a team. He experienced success along the way, placing near the top of his class on several occasions. Then Mel had a motocross accident, a pretty bad one. Mel’s story about his accident, the medical care, and the comeback is well worth reading. You don’t read many like this one.
My first meeting with Mel Pocock with Zach Osborne. Zach was racing in Europe at the time and Mel was his teammate. He was only 16 years old at the time. Mel accompanied Zach on a trip to the United States and they would arrive to my house in Las Vegas. While I had been working with Zach for quite a while at this point, this was the first time I had met Mel. I had seen it many times before. A young eager motocross racer who says he will do anything to make it to the top step of motocross. Mel was very interested in Zach’s training program at the time and asked me if I could evaluate his fitness. Agreeing, I put Mel on the Computrainer. This is a cycling erg meter that sustains a certain power at a given setting. I use the Computrainer as a tool to do functional threshold power tests to see where a rider’s fitness lies. I had Mel perform a 20-minute test with his bicycle, and I will never forget his expression after the test was finished. Mel’s reaction was one of disgust, confusion, and uncertainty. Mel’s exact words were “God, I never want to get on this thing again.” Mel had suffered to such an extent, that he wasn’t even sure if he wanted to continue racing, knowing that it would take these kinds of efforts to adapt to the pain of suffering required to be a top level motocross racer.
Mel and Zach would leave Las Vegas to go ride the motocross tracks in California. I have seen a lot of motocross racers in my day, and for me, I thought Mel’s motocross career had an expiration date. He was obviously talented enough to make it to a certain level, but afterwards I was uncertain if he would be able to make a career out of it. Little did I know that Mel returned to England and continued racing the European motocross championships where he would place top 10 in many races and was working his way to getting a full support ride. I would always watch Mel’s results, sometimes being impressed and other times wondering if he had finally built the determination necessary to make a career out of motocross.
Throughout the next couple of years, Mel, Zach and myself would travel throughout the United States. Zach would always train at 100%, and Mel would usually do some part of what Zach would accomplish. Another weakness in Mel’s game was his nutrition. He was always willing to go to a fast food restaurant and eat utter crap. I tried my best to break Mel of this habit and I always wondered if I ever had an impact on him.
A few years went by and as Zach was finishing his career in Europe on the Steve Dixon racing team, I was surprised to learn that Mel had earned a spot on that same team. When Zach came back to the United States on the Honda Geico team, I was fully concentrated on Zach’s progress and dealing with his transition and injuries, and I kind of lost track of Mel Pocock. I was later surprised to learn that Mel had actually won the European motocross championship in 2012. Mel, to my surprise was starting to garner some results in the GPs as well as the British championships. In 2013, I learned that Mel was doing well in some of the GPs, but still struggling with stamina during the latter parts of the races. Mel even finished 6th overall in a MXGP in 2015, the week before his injury. When I saw this, I was very happy for him and I thought to myself that maybe some of the exposure to the hard work that Zach was putting in certainly rubbed off on Mel.
Freak accidents happen in motocross all the time. Mel Pocock’s accident would be no exception. In 2015, Mel was racing the British MX championships and came into a corner, where an inexperienced rider had crashed in front of him in a sand corner. Nobody could guess what came next. Mel’s right hand actually came in contact with the rear wheel and sprocket, ripping his hand to shreds. The picture is very graphic so only click on this link if you want to see it. The injuries subsisted of tearing off half of Mel’s thumb, as well as breaking several bones in the hand as well as tearing the tendons and nerves within the hand itself. The injury also extended into his forearm. It was a huge undertaking just to save Mel’s hand. By all accounts, doctors thought his hand would need to be amputated. Mel got himself a reputable surgery clinic and after several operations, the surgeons managed to save Mel’s hand. He needed fixation of several bones in his hand as well as skin flaps from his leg to his hand in order to restore the skin structure. A skin flap is where the surgeon takes the skin, muscle and blood vessels, and reattaches the blood vessels to the area that needs to heal, which in this case was Mel’s hand. Mel also needed a forearm compartment release as the swelling had grown so bad that it was starting to cause pressure on the nerves of his hand and forearm to where it became dangerous. The important part, is that Mel lost half of his thumb down to the joint. When a motocross racer loses the thumb mid joint, most would think it impossible to continue racing at any high level. Everyone, including myself, thought that Mel’s career was abruptly over.
Here are some excerpts at the time of the injury:
Stevie Dixon March 15th at 17:21: Not good news at the moment with Mel. A rider crashed in front of Mel whilst Mel was committed to the corner. It looks like the rear sprocket or handguard has lacerated his arm badly and he has lost the top of his right thumb at the knuckle. It’s not pretty and we are all in deep shock at the moment, let’s all wish the surgeons can do a great job, we are in touch with top people but at the moment he needs to be stabilised and we await the doctors news. Our hearts go out to Mel and his family who as you know have had enough injuries with Brad Pocock. Will try to keep everyone updated as we hear from his family.
Stevie Dixon March 16th at 9:51: First surgery at 3am this morning to straighten Mels hand went well, surgeons meet at 9am to discuss next operation at 12 noon, Mel now remembers what happened, the bike next to him pitched up in the air and the bottom of his sprocket came down on mel like a chainsaw, he actually was still on the bike, he is with the top surgeon who know he’s a top sportsperson.
Stevie Dixon March 16th 20:59:Update 3, Mel had a 6 hour operation on the bones in the back of his hand, it was very crushed and many small broken pieces, also the surgeons had to operate on the arm to relieve the damage. A further 8 hours of surgery including skin graft and muscle structure is planned for Monday, we can only pray Mel’s strength and determination shown on the track will get him though this traumatic time. In all my years of GP’s with so many injured riders I have never Seen such horrific damage, after a career best 6th overall last week in the GP to this injury is cruel injustice.
Mel Pocock March 18th 11:51:
Nothing going on here today with me just resting. Tomorrow I have a nerve block in my neck for them to be able to change my dressing. Monday I will be having a 10hr operation with 4 surgeons that will determine the future with my hand. Thanks again for all the support.
Many months went by and I would ask Zach about Mel’s progress. Mel had been in intensive rehab and was starting to regain function in his hand. He was very lucky that he had feeling and movement, but it was uncertain whether he would write a motorcycle again
These are photos of Mel’s hand immediately after the accident and in the hospital.
Post Surgery and Rehabilitation Pictures of Mel’s hand
About one year after the accident, while Zach was on his way to his first 250 Supercross championship, Mel came to Anaheim Stadium to watch the Supercross. I remember catching up with Mel and asking him about his hand and how he had been doing with it. At this time, he said he had actually tried riding a motorcycle again, but it was coming slowly. Even at this time I wasn’t sure if Mel would ever be able to fully come back as a professional motocross racer. I clearly remember Mel asking Zach for advice and how he could ever come back. As Zach has spent many years coming back from multiple injuries, he will tell you that it just takes time and you need to set small goals for yourself and keep moving forward. Mel took this advice to heart.
Zach Osborne, Doc Edwards, and Mel Pocock at Anaheim Supercross 2013 where Zach would take 3rd place.
Skip to April 2017
Two years to the date after Mel’s traumatic accident, he would come back to a level of motocross that he had attained before the accident. Due to his injury, he adapted his riding style to be a lot smoother, like not railing berms as much, and he developed a lot more technique. Mel would win several British championship races as well as place top 10 in MX GPs, and he nearly won the 2017 British championship. When Mel first started posting good results after his accident, he even got Jeffrey Herling’s attention (KTM factory star racer), who tweeted, “f…ing Mel Pocock.” Herling could easily see what monumental task Mel had to achieve to be overcome back to this level in the sport.
A video of Mel’s hand during rehab and shortly after the operation
Mel coming out of the hospital
If you ask Mel about his injury and what it is like to come back, he will tell you that it is tough. He only rides with 4 fingers. But looking back he is super proud of what he has achieved. Even more, Mel is riding pain free, which is something no one knew would be possible or not.
Mel Pocock’s comeback is nothing short of impressive. No one can teach this type of tenacity, coming back from this type of injury is nearly impossible, and it shows so much about Mel’s character. I can only hope that I had a little part to play in Mel’s tenacity which was obviously in him all the time. The months of pain, uncertainty, determination and everyone involved in Mel’s rehabilitation and ultimate comeback is simply incredible. Besides Zach Osborne’s comeback to the top of sport 10 years after his rookie debut, and winning the championship, the Mel Pocock story is right up there. We must never forget the innate fight that all of us possess, and sometimes, for better or worse, it takes the worst situations in life to bring it out the best in us.
Currently Mel Pocock is riding for the Rev Husqvarna team, started a family, and has recently become a father. He plans to continue his racing career for as long as he can, and hopes to have a career in motocross afterwards.
Ride on Mel!
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