MARQUETTE, Neb. - Two-time World Champion Justin
McBride knows what it's like to be in a tight race for the
title, only to injure one's riding hand.
In 2001, he, Ty Murray, and eventual champion Adriano Moraes were battling it out when McBride broke a bone on the top of his right hand behind his ring finger in Oklahoma City.
He had "banged it up pretty good" just days before the event. After winning the opening round holding on with his fingertips, he drew the infamous Dillinger as the Mossy Oak bonus bull.
"That didn't go too hot for me," McBride said.
That Monday he went to Dallas and met with Dr. Hugh Frederick, the same surgeon who performed hand surgery on J.B. Mauney a few weeks ago.
J.B. Mauney has dealt with injuries his entire career. Note that in addition to the elbow brace, both hands are taped in Detroit.
Unlike Mauney, who had a plate and six screws inserted, McBride
elected to have a rod inserted through the middle of the broken
bone to stabilize it. Instead of missing six to eight weeks, he
missed only one, and returned the following week in Laughlin,
He hadn't attempted any practice bulls, and his hand was still swollen and constantly sore.
'They told me I couldn't hurt it any worse,
so I wasn't going to re-break it or anything like that, I wasn't
going to do any more damage to it, but it was going to hurt. I
mean, Tandy (Freeman) made that real clear.'
"They told me I couldn't hurt it any worse," McBride recalled, "so I wasn't going to re-break it or anything like that, I wasn't going to do any more damage to it, but it was going to hurt. I mean, Tandy (Freeman) made that real clear."
Despite the pain, McBride tied Michael Gaffney for eighth in the average that weekend, and stayed close to Moraes and Murray with three events remaining before the World Finals. He wound up finishing third in the standings.
Eleven years later, McBride still has a knot on the top of his hand from the injury.
The hand still gives him a little trouble from time to time. Just this week he was building a fence, and it got sore after digging postholes.
Justin McBride, shown here on Camo in 2006, is not sure J.B. Mauney can switch riding hands on bulls as good as those on the Built Ford Tough Series.
"It was something I just had to learn to deal with," said
McBride, referring to the last seven years of his career. "I was
never very strong with that hand again."
He did manage to win the title in 2005 and again in 2007, but not without making adjustments.
After the injury, he never used a bull rope with a stiff handle. Cody Lambert also talked to him about pulling his rope a little tighter, so that his hand couldn't roll out of it.
"I had to figure it out," said McBride, noting there were still times he'd be in a good position and the rope would come out of his hand. "It was my Achilles heel."
McBride said he understands what Mauney is going through.
'Boy, I don't know. I've never seen anybody
do it and do it well enough to compete at that level.'
The 25-year-old is in a back-and-forth battle with Valdiron de Oliveira atop the standings. Oliveira, who has the lead for the third time this season, is 437.25 points in front of Mauney, who will miss his second event since undergoing surgery.
Mauney is contemplating a switch to his right hand to avoid missing as much competition.
"Boy, I don't know," said McBride, when asked about switching hands. "I've never seen anybody do it and do it well enough to compete at that level. It's one thing doing it in a practice pen or even at an amateur level, but I wouldn't want to have to tie myself to Bushwacker with my (off) hand."
No return date has been set for Mauney, and a final decision has not been made about switching hands.
After this weekend's event in Des Moines, Iowa, there are four Built Ford Tough Series events before the summer break, then another nine before the start of the World Finals in late October.
McBride thinks Mauney has plenty of time to sit out, return healthy and make another run to the top of the standings.
He added that although Mauney's left hand will be weaker when he returns, the long-round bulls have gotten so good in recent years that he's better off waiting than trying to do what he's never done before and risking a significant injury.
"He has the grit and all that," McBride said, "but he has to make sure he keeps his body intact. If you don't have any power behind it, you can grit until you (soil yourself), but it won't do you any good.
"I don't think he'd have much luck, and then he takes a chance at hurting other parts of his body. I'm not 100 percent, and I've never seen him ride with his (right) hand. Maybe he's the diamond in the rough that can, but I've never seen anybody - not at that level."
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