Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Hit me again: On the one charity motorcyclists should support

A few months ago, I wrote an admittedly provocative post criticizing the Distinguished Gentlemen's Ride, in support of prostate cancer.

I made a point I've made over and over: there are all kinds of worthy causes out there... that other people should support. But that we, motorcyclists, should focus our charitable efforts in one narrow area, spinal injury research.

No column I've ever written has triggered so many comments or personal attacks. Many motorcyclists would rather stick a camera up their butt than admit that that their next motorcycle ride might result in spending the rest of their lives on another set of wheels.

The motorcycle industry will, by and large, ignore me because it's made up of motorcyclists who are so afraid (with good reason) of paralyzing injury that they can't bear to think about this problem. And they last thing that an industry desperate for first-time rider wants to confront is this fact: riding motorcycles is dangerous.

But here's the thing: There are still many in the medical establishment who feel that spinal lesions are and always will be incurable ― that's an entrenched belief that, itself, discourages research. The truth is a different. There is some very promising research being done.

Last month, there was a great story in New Yorker magazine about an operation performed in Poland, based on research conducted in the U.K. You can read it here.

The key thing to take away from it is this: these research projects are happening at a very small scale. The guy in that photo seems to have benefitted from an experimental procedure that nearly wasn't performed, for the lack of $10,000.

A million bucks, or $10 million. That's money the people behind the DGR or the Susan G. Komen Foundation waste on business-class upgrades and planning retreats in the Caribbean. But that kind of funding could literally speed the development of an effective treatment for spinal-cord injuries and paralysis by decades.

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