PUEBLO, Colo. (June 1, 2009) — Ryan Dirteater remembers hearing "a popping noise," in Tacoma, but the 20-year-old Cherokee from Hulbert, Okla., thought it was the bull.
That is, until he tried standing up after the bull, which had fallen on his side and trapped the second-year pro underneath it, got up and ran off. Dirteater fell back, unable to stand on his own and barely able to withstand the intense pain.
He had broken his right femur completely in half.
"It scared me," said Dirteater, in a Podcast posted at www.pbr.tv. "I knew my leg was broke, but I was worried about other stuff and, like, how long am I going to be out."
At the time of the wreck, Dirteater was in the top five of the world standings, and after his first career Built Ford Tough Series event win in Dallas, he was a true contender in the tight race for the 2009 PBR world title.
In the days following the Tacoma incident, he had a rod inserted in the femur to help with the recovery.
He's since missed seven events, but with the BFTS on an eight-week hiatus, Dirteater expects to return to the series when the BFTS resumes in mid-July.
"It's going to take some time to get back to where I was at before I got hurt," said Dirteater, who intends to parlay the Tulsa event into reclaiming what has been a stalled season.
He's currently ranked 16th in the world. In 15 events, he has six top-10 finishes, three of which were top five, including his win in Dallas. He's riding right at 50 percent, which is up 6 percentage points from his career average.
It's already been a long road to recovery and the rehab process is only now just beginning.
"I was pretty sore and I wasn't getting around good," recalled Dirteater, who admitted the first few weeks were rough. "I was limping around and wobbling like a duck."
Although the bone isn't 100 percent healed, he started a Pilates class, which allows him to stretch his leg and hips. He also began working out in the gym in an effort to rebuild the muscle and strengthen his injured leg.
Not only is he now walking without such a pronounced limp, but he's also able to jog up to a mile and, more importantly, he started riding his horse bareback in an effort to get a feel for using his leg to stay on and spur.
"Every little bit helps," he said, in preparation for his return.
He broke his jaw a year ago, but Dirteater acknowledges this is by far and away the most serious injury of his young bull riding career. He used the time off his feet to strengthen his mental approach.
Aside from Bible studies, he's been regularly reading the book Wisdom for Winning.
"Bull riding is 90 percent mental," he said, "and being at the elite PBR, where I'm at now, you have to be ready to ride. It's something you have to work at each and every day. You have to live it.
"Bull riding is a dangerous sport and you can get hurt at any time, like I did, but you have to go it and try to ride your bulls."