PUEBLO, Colo. – Derek Kolbaba knows a bull riding career can certainly be a brief one, so he wants to make sure he can strike as much as possible when the iron is hot.
The No. 11 bull rider in the world standings has opted to not undergo surgery to repair his torn ACL and MCL in his right knee after meeting with Dr. Tandy Freeman on Monday afternoon in Dallas.
“He thinks surgery would be good, but he also thinks there is a chance doing physical therapy and getting range of motion back and getting it strong I could be good to go,” Kolbaba said. “So that is what we are going to shoot for.
“It is damn good news.”
Kolbaba added that the follow-up appointment showed that his knee was making good progress in its healing process.
It has been 18 days since Kolbaba tore up his knee during his 89-point ride aboard Bottoms Up to win Round 2 of the Bad Boy Mowdown in North Little Rock, Arkansas.
Kolbaba was seventh in the world standings at the time of the injury, and the runner-up in the 2017 world title raised seemed poised to make another run at the $1 million championship.
The 21-year-old isn’t sure when he will make a return to competition just yet, but he hopes it can be before the end of the first half.
“I haven’t started anything yet so I don’t want to give it a timeline yet, but it will be a lot quicker than six months,” Kolbaba said. “Let’s just say that.”
Kolbaba did say, though, that if he works extremely hard maybe he could be back in four weeks.
“I am going to do whatever I have to do to get my knee stable,” Kolbaba said. “Whatever that takes. See if we can’t push the limits a little bit to get it there in a decent amount of time to be able to ride again at that level.”
Kolbaba is 10-for-24 (41.67 percent) this season with a 90-point ride and four Top-5 finishes.
He trails world leader Ramon de Lima by 930 points, but Kolbaba may not lose as much ground on some of the other riders currently ahead of him in the standings with so many injuries currently ravaging the Unleash The Beast.
No. 2 Luciano de Castro (knee), No. 5 Dener Barbosa (broken foot) and No. 7 Cooper Davis (ring finger on his riding hand) are currently out of competition because of injuries, while the next two men behind Kolbaba in the standings – No. 12 Guilherme Marchi (concussion and a sprained right sternoclavicular joint) and No. 13 Jess Lockwood (hand) are also out.
Kolbaba isn’t planning on letting this injury hold him back from getting back into the 2018 title picture.
He is confident that he will return in time for a push for that coveted No. 1 ranking.
“Twenty years from now, it may be a bad choice,” Kolbaba said. “At the end of the day in bull riding, you have a pretty short career. If this is not going to hinder the way I ride bulls, then why not go for it and be in as much as I can instead of sitting out half a year trying to play catch up.”
Kolbaba is also thinking of putting forth another strong summer run like he did last year if the knee is ready for the workload later this spring.
“I think it will be good,” Kolbaba said. “It feels great right now, but obviously I am not doing anything. It feels fine. I think there is a pretty good chance we can get it strong and get everything firing where we need to.”
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