KTM-supported racer opens on extensive injuries sustained in the US.
Injuries sustained by Hayden Mellross at the Glendale round of Monster Energy Supercross were far worse than initially reported, resulting in him missing the 2023 Australian Supercross Championship (AUSX) opener as he prioritises recovery and the longevity of his career.
Mellross ventured to the US earlier this year to compete in the final six rounds of 450SX, however, that trip was cut short after a qualifying crash in Arizona left him with right ankle damage.
The 28-year-old has since revealed the severity of that damage, indicating emergency and multiple surgeries were required due to the nature and location of the damage, resulting in a lengthy and extensive rehabilitation program to ensure a complete recovery.
“My plan this year was to race the last six rounds of the AMA Supercross,” Mellross told MotoOnline. “I was really trying to build a supercross-only deal for myself. I had a few meetings with WSX teams to potentially get involved with that, I thought racing in the USA would give myself the best opportunity to race supercross globally.
“I took the risk, went over to the USA and had some help from some really good people. In Arizona, I was riding really well for my first supercross back there, I think I was sitting in 19th or 20th position in qualifying. I was really happy with that, but unfortunately, when I was on a heater in qualifying I overjumped a quad in a rhythm.
“When I overjumped it, my ankle kind of hyper-extended down, and it must of hit the ground, or it hit something on the ground. When it did that, I ended up getting flung off the bike. When it hit the ground, it knew I did some really bad damage to the ankle.”
“I had a spiral fracture at the bottom of my tibia, which required some hardware, and then the biggest implication I had was with my talus. I actually broke my talus in a couple of spots, but also dislocated my talus when I broke it. Part of my talus shifted to the back part of my ankle, where it was pushing on the main artery and the main nerves in my foot.
“Pretty much within 10 minutes after the incident I started losing feeling in my foot, the colour of it changed rapidly and I knew it was serious. Luckily enough, I had really good help and I got rushed to the hospital, to the trauma unit. I got operated on within probably two hours of breaking my ankle, because of how severe it ended up being.
“The biggest thing for the first operation was to remove the bone of my artery and nerves, and to put my ankle back in place. The best thing was, the artery and the nerves, in the surgeon’s opinion, were only kinked, they weren’t severed or cut, which means I should be able to make a full recovery. After that, they went back in for another operation and fixed the remaining damage to the talus.”
“I waited a couple of weeks in the US, and then came home. Since then, I really have just been trying to get on top of my physio. I do have some really big concerning issues that I still have to overcome, which is why I am taking my time to come back into the racing industry. I look at it as taking an extra couple of months now, to make sure I can race into my mid to late thirties as I would wish to.”
The biggest concern for Mellross is avascular necrosis, which is essentially the death of bone tissue due to a lack of blood supply. As that is still a possibility, the priority of the NSW-based rider is complete recovery and as a result has made the decision to sit out the opening round of the AUSX championship in Adelaide, on 7 October.
“Seeing my doctor a couple of weeks ago, the biggest thing I have to overcome now is the blood flow and healing side of things,” Mellross added. “As he said, everything is in tact, everything is looking really, really well. He said hats off to myself and my physio, because right now, we are defying the odds and we are recovering really well.
“However, my biggest concern for the next couple of months is a disease called avascular necrosis, which is where the talus in my foot starts to die off. It’s a big issue, and it is quite common in big trauma talus events that I have had in my ankle. For the first 12 months, that is a possibility, and if I can get past that 12-month mark, I will be in the clear with it.
“Everything is going really well, there are no signs of this right now, which is positive, but for me and my support group and everyone around me, I have made the decision to not race round one of supercross, just to kind of give myself a little bit more time to make sure I can overcome this. My next doctor visit is the week of Adelaide supercross, so I guess when I see my doctor next, I will make another game plan.
“Right now, where my head is at is that I’d love to just race the last two rounds of supercross, however, if my doctor’s visit on 5 October doesn’t go to plan, or if he still has any doubt in his mind, then it will be a simple decision for me just to rest up and get ready for next year.”
Mellross confirmed that if he does compete in rounds two and three of AUSX this year, it will be on a KTM 450 SX-F, with support from KTM Australia. Additionally, a return to the US is not off the cards for the 2024 season as he looks to contest 450SX races, plus the World Supercross Championship (WSX).
“I’ve been talking to the guys at KTM and I am trying to keep them as updated as I can,” he continued. “KTM have been amazing and they have really treated me so good. I would love to come back and race for them and, like I said, if everything goes well with my doctor’s appointment, the plan would be to race a KTM 450 with the support of KTM for the last two rounds, then ideally continue that relationship into next year.
“If everything goes to plan, I’ll be back, my plans for next year are to redo the program that I tried to do this year, so heading back to the US early in the year to race the last few rounds of the AMA Supercross, to then potentially lead into WSX and AUSX. If everything goes to plan, we will just do a redo year next year with the plans I had this year.”