PUEBLO, Colo. – Four-time PRCA champion J.W. Harris has decided to undergo reconstructive right elbow surgery this Friday after meeting with renowned elbow specialist Dr. John Conway last week.
Harris, who has missed the past two Built Ford Tough Series events because of his riding elbow injury, spent last week debating whether he could attempt to ride through the injury, but realized his best chances at contending for a future World Championship are if he gets his elbow fixed.
According to Harris, Conway will repair multiple ligament tears in his elbow, as well as some broken bones. Harris is expected be out anywhere from four to six months.
“It really depends on what he all finds in there and how the surgery goes,” Harris said. “I don’t plan on quitting any time soon, so I might as well get it fixed. Conway said I might as well get it fixed now because I am running the risk of tearing it up more.”
Conway is the same elbow specialist who performed Matt Triplett’s elbow surgery following his riding elbow injury at the 2015 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
According to Orthopedic Specialty Associates, Conway spent 15 years as a physician for the Texas Rangers and currently works with various professional athletes.
Harris has been contending with the elbow injury for the past two seasons. The 2014 Rookie of the Year aggravated the injury attempting to ride Mishap in New York and again two weeks later in Anaheim attempting to ride Smooth Sailing.
This is the first time he ever had an elbow specialist look at his injury.
“It has been popping and clicking for two years,” Harris said. “I have just ignored it as best I could. I think after Anaheim and New York that finally finished it off. Hell, it could have been the best thing tearing all of those ligaments.
“Really the first jump out of there my elbow is just getting weaker and weaker. Whenever I need to ride up on my rope there is nothing there.”
Harris hasn’t decided if he will also get hip surgery during his time recovering from elbow surgery.
“Right now, if I do get the hips, six months will be September probably,” Harris said. “So it just really depends on where I am sitting at in the standings when that time comes. We will see if there is still a legitimate shot at making the PBR Finals and I will start back. If not, I will start back next year.”
Harris is currently No. 20 in the world standings with 250 points thanks to his 15/15 Bucking Battle and Round 1 victories in New York.
In theory, Harris should remain in contention at qualifying for the World Finals despite the time off.
Dave Mason was the No. 35 bull rider with 535 points last season following the Sept. 4 event in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Douglas Duncan eventually qualified for the 2015 Finals as the No. 35 rider with 641.25 points.
However, there are more round points available at the BFTS level this season than in 2015.
If Harris takes the full six months to recover from elbow surgery, that would still leave him with eight Built Ford Tough Series events to try and crack the Top 35 and qualify for the Finals.
The 2016 Built Ford Tough Finals are being held Nov. 2-6 in Las Vegas, which is later than past years.
Harris also could attempt to qualify for the World Finals as a wild card through the BlueDEF Finals in Las Vegas on Oct. 29-31.
“Shoot, if I am sitting pretty good at 250, then I will start back,” Harris said. “If I am 100-150-200 points back from making it, then, yeah, I will use my exemptions now and get it over with. There is still a lot of time with the PBR Finals being in November this year. Hell, there are three events in October. I am still going to come back with a lot of events left, even if I come back in the middle of September.
“There is still going to be a lot of events left for me to make up a lot of ground. There is plenty of time.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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