BMX Racing and Your Brain

BMX race against grandpa

My son and my dad trash talking at the Y BMX track in Orange, CA.

By: Tina Davidson

Hold Your Line

I thought my dad was taking life a little easier since his retirement, but it seems I was wrong.

He stopped subjecting his body to the wear and tear of motocross racing many decades ago.  He promised that his days of concussions and broken collar bones were over.

Or so he said.

Recently, he’s traded in his motorcycle throttle for bike pedals.

He claims he is only practicing, but he has had a few minor injuries.  He showed me a scab on his elbow and remarked, “It’s healing nicely.”  He received the flesh wound after a five-year-old had cut him off at the finish line at the Y BMX track in Orange, CA, during a practice run.

So, when my seven-year-old son rode the Y BMX track with his grandpa for the first time this last week, my dad advised, “Hold your line.” This means when you are a newbie racer you ride in a straight line– you don’t veer off to the right or left.  Not heeding this advice may cause you to get hit by someone else, like a hot-shot five-year-old, or you may take out another rider, like a grandpa.  My son crashed once and no grandpas were injured during the two hours of practice racing, so I think the advice sunk in.

Pros vs. Cons of BMX Racing

The top three benefits to BMX:

  1. A fairly inexpensive hobby
  2. A good form of outdoor exercise
  3. A sport suitable for all ages

The top three things I dislike from my son’s recent BMX experience:

  1. Kids comparing their bikes
  2. Kids trash talking each other in practice
  3. Kids getting injured

Protect Your Brain

Thankfully, my son was wearing a helmet (a track requirement) when he crashed.  Are you familiar with what to look for in the event of a head injury following a crash? The Medicine of Cycling has a great handout on how to assess for a concussion.  It gives clear and simple instructions on how to proceed after a head injury from a cycling crash.

In researching information on traumatic brain injuries, I stumbled upon an article in the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing.  It included information on providing traumatic brain injury patients with psychosocial interventions (among other important interventions).

To promote brain health throughout the life span, the injured person and family should be instructed on the health benefits of social support and community engagement as methods to promote brain neuroplasticity and positive behavioral outcomes. Although the mechanisms remain elusive concerning how social behaviors contribute to neuroplasticity, there is a growing body of evidence that social service programs, meditation, and physical exercise improve brain plasticity (Davidson & McEwen, 2012). The family and injured person should be informed of the benefits of community engagement, friendships, and social relationships as well as, reducing stress through cognitive reframing or meditation practices. Furthermore, these psychosocial interventions can prevent or reduce the negative effects of emotional distress and depression, which are both known to contribute to the inhibition of neural activity.

It seems that whether you have a brain injury or not, everyone can benefit from socializing and getting exercise.  I’m glad my dad has found a hobby that can help support his brain health.  In the long run, he is doing his body and brain a big favor by trying BMX.  Plus, he gets the added benefit of riding with his grandchildren.

My dad has always enjoyed the thrill of racing and I think my oldest son has inherited that gene. Thanks, Dad!

Lift Weights to Ride Better

A brief article, meant for long distance riders, in Bicycling, suggests leg presses and squats to improve your riding muscles. (I’m sure BMX racers can benefit from strengthening their quadriceps and muscles in their lower bodies too.) A weight lifting routine over 8 to 12 weeks (during off-season it was recommended) will aid your brain as well.

“Your brain also becomes more adept at recruiting the muscles you need to keep riding.”

Try three sets of five Dumbbell Bulgarian Squats two days a week. There are many Youtube videos out there to show you how.

Try Something New

Are you contemplating a trial ride around a BMX track? Remember, you are never too old to try something new (consult your doctor first if you have reservations). It is best to be cautious, but don’t let fear of injury stop you from trying.  Perhaps, we will see you out on the track!


Happy Father’s Day, Dad!



Bay, Esther H., and Kattlynn S. Chartier. “Chronic morbidities after traumatic brain injury: an update for the advanced practice nurse.” Journal of Neuroscience Nursing June 2014: 142+. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 14 June 2014.

“ACTIVATE YOUR MUSCLES.” Bicycling Mar. 2014: 024. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 14 June 2014.



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