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PRCA's Tim Bingham bounces back again

by Matt Naber | Jun 12, 2019

PRCA Media Coordinator

Breaking his neck twice hasn’t stopped bull rider Tim Bingham from competing.

After missing three-and-a-half months due to breaking his neck for the second time, the 27-year-old cowboy posted an 87.5-point ride on Diamond G Rodeo’s Margie’s Tubby to win the Cedar City (Utah) Championship Rodeo, June 8.

With that kind of layoff, Bingham had been itching to get back to competition.

"There’s no way of explaining it, you either do it or you don’t – if you don’t do it, you’ll never understand it, and if you do it, you won’t be able to explain it,” Bingham said. "It’s just something you can’t let go of. There’s nothing else like it in the world so I’m going to live it for as long as I can and enjoy it while it lasts.

The three-time qualifier for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (2014, 2016-17) injured his neck following his 84.5-point ride on Beutler & Son Rodeo's Twizzler at La Fiesta de los Vaqueros in Tucson, Ariz., Feb. 17. Bingham flipped upside down and landed on his head with his neck folding under him. He got up, ran to the chutes and jumped over the top, but he knew instantly that something was wrong. 

The next day he had surgery at Banner – University Medical Center in Tucson where his C4 and C5 vertebrae were fused together. 

Initially, Bingham thought his neck injury would keep him out of competition for a couple of weeks. But then he found out he’d broken his neck.

“I thought, ‘Oh, boy, it will be a long recovery period,’” Bingham said. “I’d broken my neck before so it wasn’t a first-time thing.”

Bingham broke his C6 vertebrae before turning 18 years old but waited three days before going to the doctor to find out it was broken. That injury is evident only when viewed through an X-ray. 

“I feel lucky from the first time I broke it,” Bingham said. “I was lucky I didn’t do something to cause me to get paralyzed. I’ve been blessed twice now to not sustain any other injuries. Not many people can break their neck twice and walk away like nothing ever happened.” 

He didn’t spend the last few months on the couch. Instead, he was roofing houses and working cattle. 

“I sat at home for a week or two but then I was out and about with a neck brace, and everything was normal outside of rodeo,” Bingham said.

Physical therapy began in April to rebuild the lost neck and shoulder muscles. 

“I healed up fast and talked to my doctors and moved it (returning to rodeo) up to three-and-a-half months,” Bingham said. “They said it was up to me if I felt confident. Cutting off two months from the recovery time was nice.”

He originally planned on waiting to return to the chutes until the Reno (Nev.) Rodeo but decided to warm up at some smaller competitions. He competed at the Fort Herriman (Utah) PRCA Rodeo, May 31, instead of waiting for Reno, which runs June 21-29 and has an Xtreme Bulls event June 20. 

“I wanted to have my ducks in a row when I get there,” Bingham said. “Normally, I would have gotten on a practice bull or two first, but I entered Herriman less than a week before I rode there. It was a random, out-of-the-blue moment.” 

His first few bull rides after returning for the 2019 season didn’t feel quite right, he said of his rounds at Herriman, the Days of the Old West Rodeo in Delta, Utah, and the Ute Mountain Roundup Rodeo in Cortez, Colo.

“I was stiff and slow and still getting back into the groove,” Bingham said. 

Ironically, being bucked off at about six seconds during his re-ride in Cortez is what made him regain his confidence. 

“I knew it would take a few to get it under my belt and good to go, and then after Cortez I went into Cedar City confident and excited I could stay on anything,” Bingham said. 

That air of confidence helped, as he notched the win in Cedar City. The ride was worth $2,843, but more importantly, it has the Utah cowboy confident that he will achieve his goal of qualifying for the Wrangler NFR. 

“I was excited and smiling from ear to ear,” Bingham said. “I was fired up after missing so much time and am ready to go to more now.” 

Having sustained two broken necks means his risk of re-injury is slightly higher, he said. 

“It’s not healed to where I don’t notice it, but in two to four months I may not notice anything at all,” Bingham said. “It adds a bit of a risk factor, but that is something we have to live with in the bull riding world.” 

It’s a world he was more than ready to return to.

“I’m not ready for real life yet,” Bingham said. “I had to live it for a couple of months. It wasn’t so bad, but it’s not like living the rodeo life and being around your buddies. It isn’t just about getting on the bulls. It’s the whole lifestyle of traveling and being around those guys and different people from different areas who have their own unique things about them. 

“Most in bull riding give up by 35, and I've still got some years in me. It’s worth it.”

It's not just about the thrill of the ride or the freedom of the rodeo road that Bingham enjoys. His goal always is to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. 

“I’m not just back because I like to ride bulls and travel the country,” Bingham said. “I’m back with the same goal I had, to make the NFR and have my best season. That should be everyone’s goal, to have a better season than before and that will never waiver.” 

As of June 10, Bingham wasn’t in the top 50 of the 2019 PRCA | RAM World Standings. He acknowledged he has a significant amount of catching up to do, but he’s not discouraged by the challenge. 

“I’ve got the drive and mindset for it,” Bingham said. “I’ll need to win some big rodeos and place at big ones to make up the ground. It’s doable because there’s so much rodeo left in the season, and I don’t usually get hot until the end of the season anyway.”

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