For the first time since his serious crash at Pocono Raceway on August 19, Robert Wickens has confirmed that he is paralyzed from the waist down.
Wickens made the announcement on his social media accounts Thursday night along with a video of him using his arms to slide off a rehabilitation table into his wheelchair. Looking on in the background of the video was his IndyCar Series team owner, Sam Schmidt, who is paralyzed from the neck down after he was involved in a crash at Walt Disney World Speedway on January 6, 2000.
For the past several weeks, there has been renewed hope coming from Wickens as he posted positive videos of his rehab on social media. He posted a video last week of his legs making slight voluntary movement.
That gave some in the racing community false hope that the driver could return from the injuries to perhaps race again. But on Thursday night, Wickens gave a sobering analysis of the battle that he is facing simply to regain the use of his legs to any degree.
Initially on Instagram, Wickens posted the following:
“Did my first slide transfer as a paraplegic today. My upper body is getting stronger and stronger and hopefully I’ll be able to do it unassisted soon. I’ve only been posting videos of the small movement in my legs, but the reality is I am far away from walking on my own. Some people are a bit confused with the severity of my injury, so I wanted to let you know the reality of it. I’ve never worked harder for anything in my life, and I am giving it all I’ve got to spark those nerves in my legs."
Wickens was involved in a horrifying crash on lap 7 of the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. It was the first full lap of green flag racing after the first six laps were run under caution because of a crash at the start of the race.
Wickens was battling Andretti Autosport driver Ryan Hunter-Reay in the “Tunnel Turn” in turn 2. He got the nose of his Honda underneath Hunter-Reay’s Honda, but as the turn closed up, Wickens ran into the side of Hunter-Reay’s car.
That sent Wickens riding over the nose of Hunter-Reay’s machine and airborne into the catchfence. Once the car hit the fence, it dug in and immediately started to spin wildly. The car flew back over the top of the roll hoop on Hunter-Reay’s Honda before crashing in a mangled heap on the racing surface.
The 29-year-old driver from Guelph, Ontario sustained an injury to his spinal cord as well as a thoracic spinal fracture, neck fracture, tibia and fibula fractures to both legs, four broken ribs, a broken right forearm, a broken elbow, fractures in both hands and a pulmonary contusion.
He spent several weeks at the Lehigh Valley-Cedar Crest Hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania before he was later transferred to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. That is where Wickens continues to undergo intensive physical rehabilitation in hopes that he can one day walk again.
The boyhood friend of IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe was a star driver in the European DTM Series before joining Hinchcliffe at Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports as a rookie driver in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series.
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