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Crashing the Party A bone-breaking wipeout at the Winter X Games made Brian Deegan the poster boy of a new group that wants a say on extreme athletes' rights

Feb. 23, 2004
Feb. 23, 2004

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Feb. 23, 2004

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Crashing the Party A bone-breaking wipeout at the Winter X Games made Brian Deegan the poster boy of a new group that wants a say on extreme athletes' rights

Edited by Yi-Wyn Yen

The great crash of 2004 ended with motocross daredevil Brian
Deegan sprawled on the ice, his left femur and both wrists
broken, his arms twisted like S-turns. Deegan had blacked out
from the pain.

This is an article from the Feb. 23, 2004 issue

His failed attempt to complete the first 360 motorcycle spin on
ice was the most-talked-about moment of last month's Winter X
Games. Though he was concerned that the condition of the ramp at
Aspen's Buttermilk Mountain was less than perfect, there were
20,000 fans on hand and Deegan decided to go for it. He launched
his 250-cc bike over a 90-foot gap. Realizing that he wasn't
going to make it, Deegan ejected midway through the flip, falling
45 feet onto packed snow and ice. Deegan, 28, was rewarded $250
for finishing last, and his spectacular brush with death got
significant airtime on ESPN for the remainder of the weekend. "I
was in unbelievable pain," says Deegan. "While I was being pulled
onto the stretcher and screaming for morphine, I thought, Is
entertaining people for a chance at the $15,000 first prize worth
putting your neck on the line?"

Many extreme athletes are wondering the same thing. Wising up to
their star power, a group of athletes has formed the Professional
Riders Organization (PRO). This week, members will elect
committees to address issues such as the selection of judges, the
formulation of rules and the structuring of licensing agreements.
Another area of concern is the extent of medical benefits
provided by event organizers at competitions, which are often
minimal. So far, PRO has signed up 75 athletes, including Deegan,
motocross star Mike Metzger and pro skateboarder Andy Macdonald,
from three major action-sports disciplines--BMX, skateboarding
and freestyle motocross.

Says PRO cofounder Brian Manley, a former freestyle motocross
rider, "We need to bring this back to the athletes. They need a
voice in running their sport. What happened to Deegan is a
perfect example of [what's at stake]. These guys are risking
their lives, and it's ridiculous that Brian walks away with
$250."

Last week Deegan was resting at home in Temecula, Calif., with
casts on both arms, four steel pins in his wrists and a heart
full of bitter regret. "I'm in rehab for the next two months," he
says. "I'm sitting here counting the 50 Gs I've lost doing jump
shows overseas." Deegan vowed that he would be "just as crazy" on
his next big jump--provided the conditions are safe enough. When
it comes to gambling with his life, he says, "I've learned that
nothing's worth the risk."

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: BO BRIDGES (2) OVER THE TOP Deegan's attempt at the first 360 spin on ice landedhim in the ER (below).