ASHLAND — Nineteen-year-old T.J. Sapp suffers from a crushed disk in the lower vertebrae of his back that continues to worsen from motocross riding. He won't pursue surgery for fear that he may become re-addicted to pain killers, as well as kept off the bike for six months.
“It would just be like taking somebody’s lifestyle away, and that’s not something I want to do,” Sapp said.
Doctors say the repetitive impact from landing on jumps is compressing his back and has taken its toll. Surgery would involve installing four screws and a plate in Sapp’s lower back that would help his mobility in the long term.
His parents have discussed if surgery would be beneficial. Sapp says they have been very supportive, but he knows they would consistently monitor his medication intake.
“There’s fear as parents,” Troy, T.J.’s father said. “But if that’s what it takes to get it behind him.”
Sapp's exposure to drugs roots back six years, when motocross injuries were frequent. His most used drug was methadone, a synthetic narcotic similar to morphine. He also attributes the addiction to depression, which might stem from psychosis, a mental disorder that distorts reality.
Sapp is no stranger to rehabilitation. In the last year, he has checked in to three psychiatric hospitals that specialize in detoxification and depression. He remembers heavy, day-and-night surveillance and the emotional stress his family endured.
“It sucked. Going back to rehab would be hell,” he said.
Drugs aren’t a factor anymore for Sapp, and he considers motocross an outlet.
“It's amazing, it’s bliss, it’s like the greatest high you can ever have.”
Sapp currently rides at an amateur level but aspires to push for the national pro scene. He lives in Ashland and does his riding at Finger Lakes State Park, north of Columbia.