Reigning Isle of Man TT Champion Steve Plater will not be able to join his HM Plant Honda team in the pit lane at this year’s TT, due to requiring a further operation following a crash in the Superbike practice session at the North West 200 road race two weeks ago.
The 2009 Senior TT winner suffered a broken arm during the crash which required two operations – one to plate the two broken bones and the second to relieve pressure build up on the nerves. Despite the surgery, Plater has been experiencing shoulder and chest pain. That had ruled out Plater from racing at this year's TT, but he had hoped to support his team throughout the fortnight-long festival.
He attended his local hospital in Lincolnshire last week for further tests and X-rays to establish the cause, but it wasn’t until having a head scan that the cause was found to be damage and a break in his neck between the sixth and seventh vertebrae, which will require an operation.
A subsequent MRI scan has confirmed in detail Plater's neck injury and enabled the surgeon to understand the exact nature of the injury and discuss the way forward.
Plater will undergo an operation at a specialist hospital on Wednesday to carry out a bone graft from his pelvis and realign and plate the vertebrae from the front. A second operation will then be carried out the week after to plate the vertebrae from the back.
Doctors at hospitals in both Londonderry and Lincolnshire have commented on Plater's “extraordinarily high” pain threshold which, while a benefit in the initial days after his accident, has extended the time taken to discover the damage in his neck.
“I know people can’t understand how it’s taken until now to discover the injury in my neck, but it probably would have been quicker with someone who has a more ‘normal’ tolerance level of pain! The X-rays showed up clear as they aren’t so detailed, but because of the neck and shoulder pain I was having when I returned home, the consultant in Lincolnshire ordered a scan of my head and neck to double check.”
“The best way to describe the injury is imagine each vertebra is a train carriage and then there’s the link arm in between – well it’s the link bit which is broken quite badly. The very fortunate thing though is that the broken bits appear to have fallen away from my spinal cord, otherwise the picture could have been different.”
“You’re not meant to have an MRI scan for about six weeks after an operation if you’ve had any metal put in your body as it can move the metal, but given the situation that rule of thumb had to go out the window. But, it doesn’t seem to have caused any issue with my arm.”
“It’s been explained to me that people that have this type of neck injury and operation usually return to totally normal life pretty quickly, so I’m hopeful that will be the case for me and I see no reason why it shouldn’t be.”
“With my arm, the swelling is beginning to go down and I’ve got more movement in my fingers now. It’s all still pretty bruised but heading in the right direction so I’m hopeful more feeling will start to come back soon.”
“I am frustrated that the operation can’t be done until Wednesday due to it being Bank Holiday and surgeons being away or medical suppliers being closed, but at least I get to be at home this weekend, all be it staying very still! I’m also gutted that I won’t be able to make it to the TT to just be with the team and spend time with the fans, but getting fixed is my priority at the moment. The pain is quite uncomfortable in my neck and shoulder so I’m pleased we now know the way ahead and I’m looking forward to firstly, getting back to normal and then, seeing how I can try to regain the Superstock championship lead.”
“I’d like to say again big thanks to all the medical staff who’ve been involved and also everyone who has sent me well wishes. Emails, text messages and cards keep coming and, people have even been sending get well messages to Honda for me and also posting messages on the team’s website and YouTube account! It means a lot so thanks again to everyone. I’ll keep you posted with my progress and look forward to being back out there again soon.”
Plater's HM Plant Honda teammate John McGuinness will be joined by Keith Amor, who is taking over Plater's Superbike, while Michael Rutter will ride Plater's HM Plant Honda Superstock machine this year.
The first timed session of the 2010 TT is scheduled to get under way at 6.20pm on Monday, with all roads around the course due to close by 6pm. You can follow the action as it happens with TT Live! and read reports and results here as soon as they are released.