When Eric Brumagin made the decision to amputate his left foot
after a motocross accident, he thought that his racing days were history.
However, a chance encounter with a magazine article inspired him to continue
racing, and he competed in his first Extremity Games in Michigan in May.
Brumagin, a life-long motocross racer, was practicing on his usual track
in Arizona in September 2009 when he failed to clear a jump. The impact from
the landing crushed his foot and ankle, and over the next 11 months, Brumagin
underwent a series of surgeries to rebuild the bones in his ankle and foot in
the hope that an amputation could be avoided.
“The doctors and surgeons performed different surgeries trying to
obtain better blood circulation and make it as pain-free as possible for
me,” Brumagin told O&P Business News. “Unfortunately, in
doing that, I had no movement in my foot. As the bones healed, they fused
together, and the nerves were intertwined within the bone fragments. When I
tried to walk it would be painful, and I was relying very heavily on pain
Because of the pain, Brumagin was confined to a wheelchair, walker, or
crutches, but as an active father of three, he quickly grew discouraged with
the limitations that they presented.
“I was depressed and frustrated, so I asked my surgeons what my
options were in order to have a better quality of life,” he said.
Brumagin’s doctors told him that amputation would be the best way
to regain his mobility.
“That was hard to swallow,” he said. “But I went home and
did some research, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that this is
what I would need to do to at least have a chance to live and have a better
quality of life.”
So on Aug. 30, 2010, almost 1 year after his accident, Brumagin
underwent a transtibial amputation of his left foot.
“It was difficult to physically look at myself,” he said.
“But I knew in the back of my mind that even though I had had a foot, it
was not functional. And in a few short months, I would be getting a new one and
the chance to walk again.”
Brumagin began working with Dave McCalmont, CPO, of Hanger Clinic to get
fitted for his first prosthetic foot, which he received on Nov. 15, 2010.
“When I got my new leg, it was like Santa Claus giving a kid the
biggest gift at Christmas. It was amazing,” Brumagin said. “From
there, it was, ‘What else can I do with it?’”
Only a month after he was fitted with his prosthesis, Brumagin went
snowboarding with his son.
“At first, it was painful, but I needed to do that to push myself
and prove to myself that I could do it,” he said.
The first foot that Brumagin wore was carbon fiber, which he would wear
with a foot shell and a standard tennis shoe. However, he doesn’t like
wearing the shell over his prosthesis while riding or swimming because it
collects dirt and water.
“I wanted to find something to make me feel more normal, because
having to switch feet in front of people if I’m going in a pool or
something is kind of awkward,” he said. “So I took an old foot that I
had and put the sole from a tennis shoe on the bottom for traction, and it has
become my favorite foot for riding motocross and for use around the
While Brumagin was recovering in the hospital after his amputation, he
was flipping through Racer X, a motocross magazine, when he found an article
about Extremity Games, the extreme adaptive sports competition.
“I had never seen [Extremity Games] before. So it was the weirdest
thing that here I was right after my amputation, and I see guys riding without
legs,” Brumagin said. “And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I am going to
be able to ride again.’”
Images: Eric Brumagin
Within a year of his amputation, Brumagin returned to riding motocross.
Although he had to make a few technical adjustments to his riding style,
Brumagin said that adapting to riding was easier than walking.
“Balance as far as how much weight I put on my foot if I’m
going through turns was a challenge, but that’s mainly just at a technical
thing,” Brumagin said. “The riding part came back very easy, and for
the most part, it works out, and I haven’t had to make any big changes to
Traditional motocross bikes are designed with the gear shifter on the
left and the break on the right. To accommodate his prosthesis, Brumagin simply
lowered the shift lever down to compensate for his lack of ankle movement while
“A lot of amputees will use a push-button shifter on their
handlebar,” Brumagin said. “But I wanted to be able to shift as
normal as possible, so I just left the shift lever where it was, but moved it
down a little.”
Brumagin competed in his first Extremity Games on May 26 at Baja Acres
in Millington, Mich.
“It was amazing to get to Michigan and have a chance to meet the
guys that inspired me so much to get back on my feet and back on my bike,”
Brumagin said. “And a lot of great things have already come from it.”
Only One Inspiration
While at Extremity Games, Brumagin met Harold Glissen, a transradial
amputee due to a congenital defect who races motocross and founded of Only One
Inspiration, a motivational group that focuses on enduring and overcoming
adversity and setting and achieving goals. Glissen also hosts adaptive
motocross clinics for both amputee and able-bodied riders of all skill levels.
Brumagin recently traveled to New Jersey to race with Glissen and assist
him at one of his clinics. Both men placed first in their divisions, which
included able-bodied riders. While in New Jersey, Brumagin and Glissen were
able to visit a local boy in the hospital who had recently lost his leg in a
“It’s such a wonderful feeling. I left there feeling grateful
that I am able to help people get through their own tragedies by sharing my
own,” Brumagin said. “It’s important to empower human potential;
it goes a long way.”
Brumagin has also entered a new career path as a result of his
amputation — working at Hanger Clinic. McCalmont offered him a position
handling shipping and receiving and various lab duties in four of its Arizona
“I get a chance to speak with new and experienced amputees and
listen to any issues or struggles that they may be having,” Brumagin said.
“I also get to walk a bunch of different feet and provide feedback that
can help the patients. Without Hanger and the support of my friends and family,
there is no way that I would have been able to race at Extremity Games, and I
had the chance to meet so many great people that helped inspire me. I have been
really blessed.” — by Megan Gilbride