Craig’s AJ Stoffle injured in snocross spill | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig’s AJ Stoffle injured in snocross spill

Teenage rider’s racing season ends with spinal compression fracture; plans to return next winter

AJ Stoffle was injured during a snocross event in Salamanca, New York. Stoffle received a compression fracture of his lower spine and will be unable to compete in the remainder of the AMSOIL Championship Snocross season.

A.J. Stoffle has had some close calls in a sport in which he's spent more than two-thirds of his life, but he and his family are thankful his most recent race wasn't an instance of him crossing the finish line far sooner than intended.

Stoffle was injured during the weekend's U.S. Air Force Snocross National in Salamanca, New York, as part of the Sport class of AMSOIL Championship Snocross.

The 18-year-old racer was nearing the end of the track, holding a solid lead in his heat, when he took a jump he thought would decrease his time overshooting a clean patch of snow and hit a hole.

"It just stopped me dead in my tracks," he said of the impact, noting that a pain in his back made it difficult to stand, and he quickly lost his footing.

The situation immediately became worse when the racer who had been behind Stoffle ran into him.

The teenager was taken to a hospital in Olean, New York, where his injury was diagnosed at minimum, as a compression fracture in the lumbar region of his spine. As a side effect of the trauma, his liver is also experiencing irregular functions.

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While he was able to walk not long afterward, the pain required him to fly home with his mother, Teresa, rather than drive the 36 hours it had taken to get to the venue. Stoffle's father, Michael, made the journey solo to bring back the trailer and equipment, including the new Ski-Doo he was still breaking in this season, which received much less damage than its owner.

"The sled stayed on its track and ski, didn't do any damage to it at all, except a little piece of aluminum bent where my knee hit it," he said. "Other than that, it's good to go."

The young rider takes some pride in the fact that, even with the wreck, he still made it into the last chance qualifier round of the race.

Stoffle has been able to function normally and has been, going to school since he returned. But his level of caution has increased regarding his risky L2 vertebra.

"Right now, it's on the verge of exploding, so if I were to trip and fall and land on my back or my stomach, it could hit it just right," he said.

The estimate on his full recovery time is eight weeks at minimum, in time to barely miss the rest of the AMSOIL circuit that continues through March.

"I'll be healthy right as they're running the last race, they figure," he said, adding he'll miss competing on some of his favorite tracks that come at the end of the season.

With 14 years of riding snowmobiles under his belt, this is the first significant accident Stoffle has ever had, and the entire family is glad it wasn't worse.

"It's a risk that we take, and we've been very fortunate," Teresa said. "He's pretty lucky."

The next season of AMSOIL starts in late fall, around Thanksgiving weekend, an appropriate time for someone who fully recognizes he's got a lot to be grateful for and that his passion — and his life — didn't come to an abrupt end.

Once his body is back in peak condition, he plans to keep going.

"I'm not going to let it slow me down," Stoffle said. "I'm going to take it as it comes and get bigger and faster and stronger and come back clean next year."

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.