THREE years almost to the day after breaking a vertebra in his neck in a crash, Newcastle speedway star Jason Doyle is counting his lucky stars after walking away again with the same injury.
Doyle returned to Newcastle on Wednesday afternoon after gaining a release from Royal Melbourne Hospital following a horror crash in the Speedway Grand Prix in Melbourne on Saturday night.
The 30-year-old fractured his C7 vertebra and punctured a lung in a heavy fall at the first corner of the four-man final at Etihad Stadium in front of more than 26,000 people.
Results on Wednesday morning from an MRI scan of Doyle’s neck convinced doctors the world No. 5 did not need surgery.
Doyle will stay in a neck brace for at least four weeks and see a specialist in six weeks to assess his recovery.
It is familiar territory for Doyle, who fractured the C6 vertebra in his neck when crashing in the Premier League final of 2012 in England when riding for Somerset Rebels.
However, he said Saturday’s fall, after which he was unconscious for more than five minutes on the track, was worse.
“The last time I broke my neck, I didn’t knock myself out for so long,” Doyle said.
“This one, because I don’t remember it, it really hasn’t sunk in, which is a good thing.
“I don’t want to remember it . . . but it’s definitely the worst crash I’ve had.
“Last time, I crashed then went back to the medical room and started coughing up blood, and that’s the only reason I went to hospital and they found the fracture.”
Doyle was thankful for another lucky escape in a sport which has witnessed n Darcy Ward and Russian Vitaly Belousov suffer serious spinal injuries in recent months.
“We all know injuries are part and parcel of motor sport, and just never know what’s going to happen,” Doyle said.
“I got away with this one but I won’t change my lifestyle, I can tell you that.
“I was saying to my family, it could have been one millimetre to the left or right. You never know when you’re time’s up. But you’ve got to think positive about everything in life, and you wouldn’t change it.”
Despite the scare, Doyle had no plans to slow down his speedway ambitions after the most successful season of his career.
“Not at all, I’m all sweet,” he said. “I’m not going to do the n titles.
“I’m just going to spend a few days here with family in Newcastle then head back to England and sort everything out for next year.”
In his first season on the world grand prix circuit, Doyle finished fifth to seal his place on the series for 2016. He also won his first n title and UK Elite League Riders Championship and rode in the top leagues in Poland, Denmark, Sweden and England.
“It was very strenuous, and a big strain on me and my partner, Emily, who didn’t see me much, but it was the best season I’ve had,” he said.
“Then to finish fifth in the world was something I didn’t think I’d get.
“I just wanted to be top eight to qualify for next year, so everything worked out well.
“It was just a shame there was one big crash at the end of the season, but it hasn’t really spoiled it. I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Doyle’s helmet was “destroyed” in the crash, which he has watched only once on replay.
“I saw a quick one because they wanted to show me in hospital what actually happened and how I broke my neck, but I don’t really want to watch it,” he said. “I can’t remember going out for the race. I can just remember qualifying for the final, coming back into the pit area and then getting ready.
“I don’t remember from then on until my partner Emily was in the ambulance with me. I lost about 20 minutes of my life.”
“I was certainly very lucky, but I think it just proves that paying a lot of money for good protective equipment, it pays off in the long run.”