DES MOINES, Iowa – As the excruciating pain began to radiate throughout his left shoulder three weeks ago in Stephenville, Texas, Robson Palermo couldn’t help but think, “Oh my God, here we go again.”
Palermo had just been stepped on by Super Juan after bucking off in 1.83 seconds during the ABBI Spring Fling event and immediately began having flashbacks to some of his past shoulder injuries.
It had already been two months since Palermo was left staring at the ceiling of the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, in disbelief that a series of past shoulder and bicep injuries and surgeries had finally contributed to him being cut from the Built Ford Tough Series.
Now, here he was in Stephenville wondering what was this latest pain was going to mean for him following two consecutive seasons in which he underwent surgery.
Palermo eventually met with Dr. Tandy Freeman, where it was discovered that the force of the blow that Palermo received had caused a screw to be bent from a prior surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews.
“This is the fifth or sixth year I have been hurt,” Palermo said. “I know I need surgery. Dr. Tandy already told me because we need to take out the screw. He told me if I can handle it, I can go and (use) a brace or tape it up.”
“I already have had so many surgeries that I don’t want to have to operate on the shoulder again. Maybe when I stop riding ,or maybe if I can’t go, then I will.”
For now, Palermo believes he can ride through the unusual injury.
Palermo isn’t able to lift his riding arm too far above his head, but seeing as it is his riding arm, he is able to tape the shoulder tightly to help secure it for when he nods his head.
In Billings, Palermo showed no ill effects – mentally or physically – from the wreck in Stephenville.
In fact, Palermo used an impressive 88.25-point ride on Fire & Smoke to win the championship round and a very important 100 points toward the world standings.
He earned a season-high 120 points toward the standings in his first action since the wreck to jump from 45th to 33rd in the world standings.
Palermo’s 2-for-4 performance helped keep him on the BFTS for at least one more week, and he will take on Wreck Em Red in Round 1 of this weekend’s Des Moines Invitational at Wells Fargo Arena.
Palermo said his shoulder felt good in Billings. However, the more impressive note to be made is how confident the 32-year-old looked.
He was comfortable, relaxed and happy to be back on tour for the first time since being relegated to the BlueDEF Velocity Tour and Touring Pro Division in February.
Just before being cut from the BFTS, Palermo admitted he was battling his head more than anything physical.
It is why he partially believes the last two months away from the BFTS was good for him. He was able to spend a lot of time with his family on his ranch in Tyler, Texas, while also finding some time in solitude to pray for guidance and strength.
Palermo has enjoyed being able to be around his wife, Priscila, and watch his children, Gabriela and Mateus, grow older.
Mateus has been trying to keep his father motivated during the past two months. The 3-year-old has become a big PBR fan and is always telling his father what he is doing wrong when he bucks off.
“He says, ‘Daddy, you need to ride like Matt Triplett,’ Palermo says with a laugh.
Following his third-round buckoff against Nefarious in Billings, Palermo called Mateo, believing he was done for the weekend and likely heading back to the BlueDEF Velocity Tour.
His spirits were lifted as he chatted with Mateo about his 7.48-second buckoff.
Sure enough, the little boy was ready to critique his father.
“‘Daddy, you should not put the hand (on the bull),” Robson recalled his son saying. “‘You should keep your head up.’
“He makes me feel good. He is always there. Every time I come back hurt, he is not complaining. He will say, ‘Daddy, go ride.’”
When Palermo walked out of the locker room, he was surprised to learn that he was going to be the last rider competing in the championship round after Guilherme Marchi withdrew because of a wrist injury.
Palermo had already removed the tape from his shoulder and was unsure if he would be able to be ready to go by the time the 15-minute intermission was over.
However, PBR sports medicine did their best Nascar impression and rapidly got Palermo ready to go in a tape job that would rival any four-tire change at Talladega.
“They had to tape my wrist, tape my shoulder and everything,” Palermo said. “Those sports med guys are unbelievable. They know what to do and they do a great job. I am so proud of those guys. It is hard when you go to Touring Pro and Velocity and not having those guys.”
Palermo added that competing at bull ridings in places such as Yakima, Washington; Little Rock, Arkansas; Wheeling, West Virginia, and Omaha, Nebraska, in the BlueDEF Velocity Tour gave him a reminder of how life was before he made his BFTS debut in 2006 in Portland, Oregon.
“Last year, I had a lot of struggles fighting my head,” Palermo said. “Believe it or not, it was good to go back there and see everything where I had been before.”
Palermo went a combined 9-for-20 at BlueDEF and Touring Pro Division events, including a 2-for-3 performance in Wheeling last month that gave him the opportunity to compete at the Stanley Performance in Action Invitational in Billings.
There was one weekend this season when Palermo competed in Omaha and had to drive 7 hours to Beggs, Oklahoma, for another bull riding the next day.
He doesn’t miss that part of not being on the BFTS.
“I didn’t miss the travel,” Palermo added. “Oh my gosh, I have been traveling a lot. The PBR spoils you so much here on the Built Ford Tough. You fly and go to the hotel, and in the Touring Pro you go to the event and get on a bull, go to a hotel, get in the car and go to another event. Some events you don’t have time to rest much.”
He doesn’t have much time to take his foot off the gas pedal on the BFTS either. Just as one round win pushed him up the standings, another round win by a rider below him in the standings can knock him back out of the BFTS.
Palermo leads No. 39 Tyler Harr – the last alternate rider competing in Des Moines – by just 67.5 points.
On the flip side, one or two more big rides by the bull rider with 37 career 90-point rides on the BFTS could put him back into the Top 30 of the world standings by the close of the weekend.
Palermo went 3-for-13 in five BFTS events before Billings and this time around he doesn’t want to press too much about earning points toward the standings or worrying about what may or may not be wrong with his shoulder.
“I feel good,” Palermo said. “My body is good. My mind is good. I go to the back of the bucking chutes and I relax and don’t feel any pressure.
“I felt so much pressure before and now it has gone away.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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