PUEBLO, Colo. – Last year was a major building block season for Matt Triplett and the 24-year-old learned many lessons during his fourth year on the Built Ford Tough Series.
One of the biggest lessons Triplett learned was to not let his ego or personal pride get in the way of the healing process necessary for certain injuries.
After admittedly returning too fast from a torn left MCL in April, Triplett has decided to take the necessary extra precautions this offseason as he recovers from right elbow surgery on his riding arm.
Sunday was Triplett’s one-month anniversary after having two torn ligaments repaired by elbow specialist Dr. John Conway of Orthopedic Specialty Associates in Fort Worth, Texas, on Nov. 6.
According to Orthopedic Specialty Associates, Conway spent 15 years as a physician for the Texas Rangers and currently works with various professional athletes.
Conway also cleaned up some bone spurs that developed in Triplett’s elbow during the surgery.
“I did have to go get surgery on my elbow,” Triplett said. “It has been a little over a month now. I can’t put weight on it yet, but I am going to yoga and getting the stretches in and going to therapy. It is healing faster than I thought it would.”
Triplett sustained the injury during the fifth round of the 2015 Built Ford Tough World Finals attempting to ride Calypso.
“It was a pain I never felt before,” Triplett said. “I couldn’t even really move my elbow. I figured something was really wrong.”
Triplett has been rehabbing the elbow injury at Green Oaks Physical Therapy in Mansfield, Texas, and part of his rehab involves laser therapy on his ligaments.
So far, he believes he is ahead of schedule and is eyeing a return to the Built Ford Tough Series as possibly as early as the end of January.
However, he also may take an extra couple of weeks, if necessary, to truly make sure he is ready to compete at the PBR’s highest level.
“Well, I thought I was going to have to wait until the beginning of March, but the therapy guy I am going to has been using a laser that puts oxygen into my ligaments and helps the healing process go a little faster,” Triplett said. “The elbow was pretty swollen and that has gone down a lot. I am probably going to give it one more month with a bunch of yoga, but I hope beginning of February is the time I am going to come back or maybe even the end of January.
“Then again. It could be the beginning of March. I am going to take every precaution and not come back faster than I need too.”
It was a tough end to the season for Triplett, who concluded the year ranked fifth in the world standings after spending eight weeks in the No. 1 position.
In fact, Triplett was ranked either first or second in the world for 16 of the 27 BFTS events. He concluded his year 33-for-78 with seven round wins, 15 Top-10-finishes and six Top-5s.
The 33 qualified rides matched his career high from his third-place finish in the world standings in 2014, while the 15 Top-10s and six Top-5s were career-bests.
Learning how to deal with injuries is one lesson that Triplett took to heart from the ups and downs he experienced in 2015.
Whether it was from winning his first career event in Oklahoma City or to conquering his first championship-round bull (Mr. Bull) in Anaheim, California, there was plenty for Triplett to be proud of.
Triplett appeared to be on his way to making a strong push for his first world title before shredding his MCL in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the Ty Murray Invitational in March.
The Columbia Falls, Montana, native rushed back to competition in only four weeks and went through periods of one week wearing a protective brace to other weeks axing the idea of using any protective gear.
The back-and-forth decision making was just one small example of Triplett’s wavering confidence in his knee, which led to seven consecutive buckoffs in his return.
Triplett admits that in hindsight he wasn’t prepared for the pressures of being in his first title race, while trying to overcome the injury.
“That incident kind of really made my confidence go down and it didn’t help me at all coming back way too early,” he said. “This time around I am going to make sure it is 100 percent and get on a handful of more practice bulls. I probably will even go to a couple of more Touring Pros before and just get the confidence of staying on and making sure the elbow can take what the bulls will throw at it.”
Still, Triplett was quick to acknowledge that he wouldn’t trade away the experience though, as he believes it is only going to make him better in the future.
“It was good to get that thrown at me,” Triplett said. “It kind of opened my eyes about what happened and to what I need to do to exit all the talk out and stay focused. That is the biggest thing in bull riding. The guy that can stay focused and stay on the same level every single time he rides is the guy that is going to win the world.”
Triplett is using the time away from the sport to refocus for 2016 and begin to mentally prepare for what he hopes to be another run at the World Championship.
“This has been the best opportunity I ever had,” he concluded. “Every little setback can lead to something bigger for me. It just opens my mind up to working twice as hard. Things are going to go a little different this year. I am just really excited to get back healthy and ride as many bulls I can.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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