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Scotty Cranmer peered over his handlebars at the ramp in front of him.  He wasn’t sure if he could do it. He didn’t know if he could pedal because he couldn’t even feel the metal under his feet. However, there was one thing he did know. He couldn’t back out now. He pushed off the ramp and hoped for the best. 

As a professional BMX rider, he had ridden at the biggest BMX courses across the world. In his 13 -year career as a sponsored biker, he won nine medals in X Games Park and is tied for the most medals in the history of the games. 

Cranmer’s love for his sport grew out of something that everyone can relate to, the need to feel cool. Cranmer was introduced to the sport by a friend who had a BMX track behind his house. The boy lived just outside of Cranmer’s neighborhood, and Cranmer thought he was the coolest kid and wanted to emulate him in any way possible. Once Cranmer found out that his friend raced BMX bikes, he knew he had to do it too. By the time he was 16-years-old he was already a professional rider, sponsored by numerous companies.

In 2015, Cranmer started his own YouTube channel. Here, he would post content with his friends doing tricks and having fun. The internet has had a massive impact on sports in America, and BMX is no different. With the advent of YouTube, the ability to share new tricks across the world has exploded. YouTube didn’t just help the sport as a whole, but it also helped take Cranmer’s career to a new level. “The internet has pushed the sport” Cranmer said. “All it takes is for the pioneers to get a trick and once people see that it’s possible then that barrier gets broken. It’s expected now, and that has pushed BMX so far.” 

By 2016, he had reached the pinnacle of his BMX career and YouTube popularity. “We all became obsessed with it, but especially me. I was the one editing the videos, I was the one coming up with the videos, and I was riding in them as well. We were producing seven videos a week,” he said. 

It was while filming one of his YouTube videos in Las Vegas in October of 2016 that disaster struck.  They were shooting at the foundation of an unfinished building by their hotel and needed one more trick to complete the video.  Cranmer did a maneuver called a “tail whip” off of a ledge, and after failing to land the trick the first time, he tried again.  This time he landed the trick and road away into a drainage ditch to slow himself down.  On the other end of the ditch was a three-foot hole that was hidden by grass and brush.  

His wheel got stuck in the hole, sending him face-first into the ground, smashing his face and leaving him with a broken neck.  Cranmer was in the hospital in Vegas for three weeks while doctors operated on his neck. It wasn’t until after his surgery that Cranmer’s wife noticed something strange. 

He kept falling in and out of consciousness. She told the doctors, who found that he was suffering from three brain bleeds. This forced them to remove Cranmer’s forehead to relieve the pressure. 

At this point, the doctors were unsure if he would ever regain full function. His doctors told the Cranmer family that he might not walk again.

The Road to Recovery 

By November 1, Scotty Cranmer was back in New Jersey at Kessler Rehab Institute. It was here that the reality of his injury set in, after he watched his Dad squeeze his hand and he felt nothing. While this experience was deflating for his family, Cranmer was at peace with the way his career had turned out. 

“I was over it,” he said, “I did everything I ever wanted to on my bike times ten.

I remember being in that moment and I wasn’t devastated. My family was there, being like, everything is going to be ok no matter what the situation is, everything is going to be ok.”

During his three month stay at Kessler, he began to see little improvements. By the time he went back to see his neurosurgeon he was able to move a little bit of everything, and that’s when he got the first sign of good news. The doctor asked Cranmer if he could use his hands and feet to push on the doctor’s hands. After doing so, the doctor told him the news he had been waiting for months to hear. 

“You are going to walk again. “

It was at this point Scotty Cranmer began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. His hope didn’t just come from his improving circumstances, it was also the support of those around him, including one particular mentor, former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand who was paralyzed while making a tackle in 2010.

LeGrand still went to Kessler twice a week, and the two became close friends. 

“Seeing the way he handled himself motivated me so much.” Cranmer said. “He also gave me so much hope that things were going to be ok.”

Cranmer’s intuition was right. Three months after coming to Kessler Rehab, he walked out of the door, a full 20 days before he was expected to be discharged. Cranmer attributes most of the success in his recovery to the people around him and the BMX community at large. 

“If it wasn’t for the people I am surrounded with, I wouldn’t have been able to heal,” he said. “Not just my family, not just my friends, but all of the people that supported me in BMX and all the people that watch my YouTube videos and sent us messages on Instagram, the countless people sent me posters and presents while I was in that hospital. They kept my energy up.”

Hearing Cranmer’s story, many people are under the misconception that he set out to prove the doctors wrong. Cranmer doesn’t see it that way. “I know how crazy spinal cord injuries are” he said. “It’s like magic, a spinal cord. It’s bigger than it’s broken or it’s not. If that spinal cord doesn’t heal, then yeah, it’s not going to work, but there is a chance that it can heal.” Cranmer’s injury is known as an incomplete spinal cord injury. This means that movement can come back, but the doctors don’t know how much. 

After his accident, Cranmer didn’t feel the need to get back on the bike. He was content with filming his friends for his YouTube channel. He recalled sitting in rehab thinking to himself that if he could hold a camera and begin to create again, he would be fine with that. It wasn’t until people started to tell him how much of an inspiration he was that Cranmer decided to see how far he could push himself.

“As I started getting better, I realized how important my recovery was to everyone else. I realized this is bigger than me and me just being normal, this is a comeback story. People need this almost as much as I do. Some people might need this more than I do, actually. That’s when I set the goal of getting back on the bike because I can show these young kids that are watching videos on my channel that it’s not over. Just because I’m not Scotty Cranmer the pro BMXer and X games gold medalist any more, I’m still Scotty Cranmer the BMX rider dedicated to BMX and to succeeding and winning, it doesn’t matter what it is, whether it is at the X games or getting back on that bike. That’s the win right there.” 

That feeling drove him get back on his bike. He told his fans that if he reached one million subscribers on YouTube he would ride his bike for the first time at his family’s skate park in Lakewood, New Jersey. He hit the million-mark way quicker then he anticipated. This is what left him peering over his handlebars at a BMX ramp just 10 months after his accident. 

 He took a deep breath, leaned forward and started his descent down the ramp. 

 When he felt the feeling of the G force on his way down, he knew he was in control. He was going to try to ride as long as he could. The only problem was he didn’t have a plan on how he was going to stop. His old freestyle instincts kicked in and he safely dismounted by sliding down on his side from a quarter pipe ramp. Almost three years later, this event looms large in Cranmer’s mind. “That was such a huge moment for me, my family, and everyone that followed my recovery” he stated with a smile. 

Everyday Scotty Cranmer is working to improve and get better, but it’s not always easy. When he is struggling, he uses a healthy dose of reflection to help him get through tough times: “I kind of convince myself that it can always be worse.” He explained that when he struggles with a menial task that he used to take for granted, or with not being able to do something the way he wants to do it, he remembers that there is someone out there that would love to be in his position. 

Cramer feels that this mindset could benefit everyone. “If you are having a bad day at work or ding your car on something, it can always be worse. Like you’re a happy, healthy person, you have so many things to live for and if you can go through a mindset like that, I think you can be a happier person, a better person, and I think you can change your life.”

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Lastly, I would like to thank Scotty for doing this podcast with me. If you would like to follow his YouTube channel, click here. If you are ever in need of a bike and are in the central New Jersey area, check out Scotty’s bike store, SC Action Sports Bicycle Shop, on route 9 north in Howell Township. 

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