Travis Pastrana's No Stranger To Severe Injuries

Travis Pastrana made his name in the world of extreme sports while he was still very young. "Interestingly enough, I started because I wasn't strong enough or fast enough physically to hang with my cousins and my uncles," he later told Inside Hook. "I was younger and a little smaller, a little bit of a runt."

And he received his first serious injury as a young teenager too: at the age of 14, a jump went so badly wrong that his spine actually separated from his pelvis. Pastrana was left in a wheelchair for five months. "I was the third known person to have suffered that injury and the other two were both paralyzed — I was very lucky," he informed Coach magazine in 2015. At the time, he didn't exactly see it that way. When nurses let him know that he was fortunate enough to escape paralysis, the miserable teen asked them: "You want my luck?" But he bounced back soon, when he was able to reach an eight-minute mile with his wheelchair.

"There's nothing I'd go through that I wouldn't say, 'This is worth it,'" Pastrana reflected. "Every kid's dream is to be a pro racer. At 12 or 13, reality sets in. For me, it hasn't." What about the other injuries that somehow never convinced him to quit?

He ran over his own foot

Travis Pastrana has always been shockingly casual about his injuries, as an ESPN interview from his early years showed. "I broke my left foot, right foot, left ankle, and the top of my left tibia," he revealed at age 16, reflecting on what he'd already put his body through while trying to copy his hero Evel Knieval. "Tore my ACL, my PCL, my LCL, my MCL, bucket handle meniscus. Dislocated my knee cap, broke the growth plate in my right knee."

And right before a big race, he managed to run over his own right foot with a motorcycle while practicing his tricks. Pastrana was sent flying into the woods by his house. "At least I missed the big trees," he joked. His coach dismissed the injury, observing: "It's only the brake foot. You don't use it much anyway." Pastrana was also determined to keep going, as he told the interviewer. "I can't walk and I can't practice, but I can race tomorrow," he added. "I'll definitely race tomorrow."

Although his mechanic had to physically start his bike for him, because a regular kickstart would have put too much pressure on the teenager's ankle, Pastrana was undeterred. His doctor acknowledged that at age 16, the racer was "at the pinnacle of physical conditioning" and that he would "have to do something very foolish for him not to heal," but added that it would be very foolish of him to "continue to stress the bone."

He crashed into the Grand Canyon

Travis Pastrana has attempted some spectacular stunts in his time without flinching, but even he was shaken when a BASE jump into the Grand Canyon went wrong in 2002. The young Pastrana had invited his parents out to watch him as he rode his bike off a ramp and attempted a backflip, but he ended up crashing and falling 2,000 feet through the air as his parachute didn't open in time. "That is the scariest thing I've ever done in my life," he told the cameras afterward.

Pastrana luckily landed in a cactus patch that broke his fall, as he recalled years later. "I have never been so happy to have cactus in my ass," the stunt driver quipped to The Times, recalling how he saw everything in slow motion during that descent. "Your body blocks everything else out. You don't think, 'F***, I'm dead,' but, 'How can I live?' Two seconds feels like twenty and you have time if you use it." As he admitted, it was one of only two incidents where Pastrana actually thought that he was falling to his death. Thankfully, his instincts kicked in, and his body collided with the cactus rather than the ground. 

He tore his knee but competed in the 2003 X Games anyway

Travis Pastrana became famous for his endurance at the 2003 X Games, after he ignored medical advice and risked his knee by competing. As he later told ESPN, an accident had led to him tearing and dislocating multiple ligaments. His doctor warned him that surgery was necessary, reportedly insisting: "You shouldn't even be walking on that thing. If you step wrong, you've got 30 minutes before you bleed out."

Only a few days before he was supposed to have reconstructive surgery, he left for Los Angeles. Pastrana's mother was so unhappy with him getting on the plane that she reportedly sent armed guards to stop him, but the stunt driver evaded them and taped up his whole leg to take part. And when he successfully took home a gold medal for his historic backflip 360, his mom was applauding him in the crowd.

In the end, he defeated some of the best Moto X athletes of the time with his final score of 94.67. "My strengths and weaknesses are the same," Pastrana explained to reporters after his victory. "I've got the willingness and stupidity to try anything. If I think it's even remotely possible, I'll do it."

He put off shoulder surgery for years

Travis Pastrana is no stranger to surgery. "My only real goal is to have less surgeries than my age," he told The Times in 2016. "Right now I am tied at 32." But he put off one particular surgery for nearly a decade: although Pastrana's shoulder had deteriorated to the point where it was popping out of its socket a few times in every race, he didn't want to face the four-month recovery process that would follow.

"But it was getting impossible to brace," he admitted, recalling how he used to be able to tape it back into place. "There was nothing left of the labrum. My shoulder used to pop out and go right back in. But that wasn't happening anymore." In 2012, he had to bite the bullet and miss out on the final race of that year's Global RallyCross series. "It became dangerous, and I didn't want to take any more chances with me or anyone else on the track," Pastrana stated.

Although he was resentful about missing out on races, the driver confessed that he wanted to be back in shape for Daytona. "Right now, I'm intentionally losing some motion in my shoulder, so it locks down tight and doesn't come out as much," he continued, describing how difficult he found the early stages of shoulder rehab. "In a few months, I'll start strength training."

He almost had an amputation in 2013

Travis Pastrana's longest break from the world of extreme sports came when he smashed his ankle in 2013, as he told Coach magazine two years later. "I was able to start walking in just under a year, but I didn't ride for 18 months -– it was pretty life-altering!" he admitted. "For a month the doctors wouldn't let me have my ankle down below my heart as I had 40 fractures and wiring all through my foot and they said if it swelled it would shift the bones and fuse that way."

He also revealed that doctors even suggested that "the whole thing" might have to be amputated. "But it slowly got better and they took the pins and wires out and everything was OK," Pastrana recalled, adding that he was never that scared by the possibility of losing part of his body. "I always just thought it would be fine and didn't want to hear about that alternative."

As he told The Sydney Morning Herald, this kind of injury makes it hard to remember how many bones he's broken. ”It's really confusing, because last year I broke seven bones in my leg, ankle and foot, but I broke those seven bones in 40 places,” he reflected in 2014, referring to the incident that took him out of the game for months. ”So is that one, because it's one injury, seven because it's seven bones, or 40 because it's 40 fractures?”

His wrist was fused

After all his risky stunts, Travis Pastrana's wrist will never be the same. The driver had it surgically fused just before Christmas 2020, as he revealed on Instagram. Wrist fusion is a surgery commonly used to treat arthritis and severe wrist injuries.

After getting the operation, Pastrana admitted that it would make a difference to some of his bike stunts. "So now, my left wrist doesn't bend. The wrist is solid to the arm," he told Inside Hook. "Luckily it's on my left side, not my throttle side, or I'd look like a chicken when I ride." He argued that instead of being an obstacle, his new inflexibility challenged him to come up with new techniques. "You've got to relearn a lot of stuff," the driver added. "My ankle's partially fused as well. My knee doesn't work, so I can't bend it as far. So, certain tricks you can't do, and certain tricks, it honestly makes you stronger for it." He also explained that he was consistently inspired by disabled athletes who pulled dangerous stunts in wheelchairs against the odds.

Pastrana also denied ever being scared off by permanent changes like his wrist, unlike many people who face mental blocks after injuries. "I never had that," he claimed. "Maybe I'm overconfident, or I guess just crazy, if you will, but it's what I love."

He's had more than 20 concussions

Given how many accidents Travis Pastrana has had, fans might assume that he's at risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. "People ask me how many concussions I've had and I'm like 20, 30? I don't remember," he told Hero magazine. But when he started running safety precautions on the Nitro Circus tour, Pastrana got tested. "It was really cool to find that we were all clear even with the amount of concussions we've had," he revealed. He's also been more concerned about the long-term ramifications of all those head injuries since he became a family man. "I felt really bad for my parents when I realized this, but the first time you see your kid get hurt, it's like you start to think, 'Well, this could've been prevented,'" the stunt driver added.

In an interview with DirtRider, Pastrana explained what a doctor told him when he started to worry about head trauma. "If you ever have two hits exactly the same, in the exact same spot, there's 100% chance of brain damage," he claimed, insisting that this was more likely for female soccer players than extreme sports stars. "I don't have brain damage." Pastrana also added that it takes work to keep an injured body from deteriorating. "A lot of people, they get hurt, they start drinking more," he concluded. "If you live really clean, you can heal almost anything. You get that blood flowing, you can reconnect anything."

He's even injured himself while sleepwalking

Even in his sleep, Travis Pastrana has ended up injured, thanks to his persistent sleepwalking. "Long story short, there's a lot of explanations for why I see things and scream and run around when I'm asleep," he told Hero magazine. "I did knock a tooth out once diving down the steps." After opening up about his night terrors, Pastrana quickly realized that a lot of other extreme athletes suffered from the same problem, as he told Graham Bensinger. He also revealed that he's tried to fix the problem over the years because it's interfered with his healing process. "I have broken bones or something and I still get up," Pastrana admitted. "I wake up and I'm jumping, I realize I have a broken ankle when I'm in the air." 

He has no memory during most of his restless nights but can walk quite far and unlock doors. "It's good reason for me not to sleep naked, for sure," Pastrano joked, recalling one Mardi Gras where he ended up at a hotel desk in his underwear. His other nightmare scenario involved a memorable airplane flight, where he "took off running at full sprint, yelling, just dropping all kinds of four-letter words." The plane hadn't even taken off yet, but he had to be gently told off by a very patient flight attendant. "I had to walk back past all my friends and all these people who were completely petrified," the stunt performer remembered.

He broke his hip and back in 2022

Travis Pastrana made headlines in January 2022 when a BASE jump went badly wrong and he plummeted from a Fort Lauderdale hotel without a properly deployed parachute. "A stunt during that event did not go as planned resulting in a hard landing of a parachutist that jumped from the Hyatt Hotel," the local fire chief told press, per TMZ, confirming that the stunt driver had been rushed to hospital. "Surgery went well and he is excited to get home," his publicist assured reporters. 

Pastrana updated fans from his hospital bed on Instagram, revealing that he had been shooting for a stunt video. "It was absolutely epic until it wasn't," he quipped. "Had the best in the business out here giving me the best advice but a series of unfortunate events led to me being in a bad place." The stunt driver added that his body would definitely recover and thanked all his supporters, giving a shout-out to his wife in particular.

"All in all though, for as many bad decisions as I made, I'm happy it didn't go worse," Pastrana reflected, explaining that although he might have to adjust to wearing a catheter for a while, he was hoping to get back into stunts as soon as possible. "And my apologies to the BASE jumping community for making it harder to have fun off awesome objects." He later confirmed that he had broken his hip and back.