Cord McCoy takes life eight seconds at a time, the length of time of a qualified bull ride. The world champion rodeo and reality TV star knows how precious each second is, whether he’s trying to stay on a bucking bronco or make it to the finish line with his brother, Jet McCoy, on CBS’ “The Amazing Race.”
On a bull or bronco, those eight seconds have been called the “most dangerous eight seconds in sports.”
But it took less than eight seconds for disaster, or the hoof of a horse, to strike Cord McCoy. On Sept. 26, 2004, he was riding in an Oklahoma City rodeo when his bronco started bucking. It threw McCoy, then stepped on his head, crushing his skull “like a Coke can.”
“I’ve had lots of injuries as a professional bull rider. I’ve broke lots of bones, had lots of stitches,” McCoy said. “But the scariest injury I’ve ever had was the head injury. I don’t want people to have to learn the importance of helmets the way I had to learn it.”
Glad to be alive
When he first woke up in the trauma center, McCoy said his thoughts weren’t about returning to bull riding. “I was just glad to be alive.” He had been in coma for two weeks and the long, gnarled scar in the shape of a big C on the left side of his skull left more than just a physical reminder of the near death accident. He couldn’t talk, walk, feed himself or do much of anything without help.
He spent the next eight months on the most amazing race of his life, relearning how to walk, how to talk.
It’s no wonder, then, that McCoy is a champion of helmets. He believes people should wear a helmet when riding any kind of bike, ATV, horse and, yes, even while bull riding.
McCoy hasn’t ridden without a helmet since his accident.
Speaking out on helmets
McCoy recently signed on as a celebrity spokesman for “ATV Ride Safe Oklahoma,” an initiative to increase and encourage helmet use. The initiative is a partnership between the OU Medical Center Level 1 Trauma Center, where he spent time in 2004, The Children’s Center, the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Injury Prevention Services and OSU 4-H Youth Development.
During the last five years, OU Trauma has had 440 admissions for injuries from ATV alone. Oklahoma ranks 14th worst in the country for deaths from ATV accidents, said Mike Knapp, Oklahoma 4-H Safety Coordinator.
In Oklahoma, it’s required by law to wear a helmet while riding an ATV only on public property. On private property, there are no helmet laws.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends delaying ATV use until age 16, but many families let younger children ride.
The ATV Ride Safe program began in 2011 and offers ATV safety classes. A recent donation from Polaris ATVs provided the program with 18 ATVs and a trailer to haul them so they can take the helmet safety message around the state, targeting rural communities where riders may be more lax about helmet safety.
An Awesome Race
This is the McCoy brothers’ third stint on “The Amazing Race.”
The pair took second place and won the hearts of America during the show’s 16th season. They were invited back for the 18th season, when they placed sixth.
The McCoy team competed in the show’s current season, and is currently in third place.
“It is amazing,” McCoy said. “ I think the race is so awesome in itself, but every Sunday night, my family kind of gets to get together and watch the race.”
These moments come eight seconds at a time and McCoy knows he is lucky to have them.
“Once you learn how special life is itself, I think it makes you appreciate it even more each day,” he said.
Look for public service announcements featuring McCoy, emphasizing ATV safety and the importance of wearing helmets.
I’ve had lots of injuries as a professional bull rider. I’ve broke lots of bones, had lots of stiches. But the scariest injury I’ve ever had was the head injury. I don’t want people to have to learn the importance of helmets the way I had to learn it.”