Kevin Hansen’s Road To Recovery

Kevin Hansen [courtesy Extreme E]

Kevin Hansen [courtesy Extreme E]

During the Crazy Race of the Season 2 opener in NEOM, Kevin Hansen suffered a serious back injury behind the wheel. Two months on from cracking vertebrae 8 and being airlifted to hospital, the popular Swede is back behind the wheel of a racing car again and closing in on a return to competitive action. In a revealing interview, the JBXE driver details his recollections of the injury, his recovery and how he is still desperate for a maiden Extreme E victory.

Kevin Hansen [courtesy Extreme E]

Kevin Hansen [courtesy Extreme E]

Extreme E: Firstly, it has been great to see you back behind the wheel of a racing car recently. How did that feel for you?

Kevin Hansen, JBXE: It was really nice! There were some initial mixed feelings because I was a little bit nervous, but the doctors had given me the green light to get back in the car. I’ve had plenty of time to build up to it. It was such a good feeling to get going again and slide around on track – it felt very natural.

I had a good feeling from all of my runs and really enjoyed it, especially the feeling of going fast. It was a little bit scary to go over the jumps in the beginning, but I did it over and over again and I felt fine.

The doctor said if anything I should be stronger than before because it has over-healed itself – like the body always does. It was amazing to get back out there.

It was like I didn’t have to think when I got back in the car – it all felt so natural despite not having driven for a couple of months. Once I got the power down, had some rotations and got it sliding, it was like I had never been away.

I was perhaps a little bit rusty and not completely perfect out there, but the first test was not really about that. It was about getting some kilometres under my belt and feeling how my back responded to it. It was really positive!

XE: That’s great to hear. Looking back to NEOM, can you tell us a little bit about the injury you suffered?

KH: The injury was a crack to vertebrae 8 – it moved from being shaped like a square to that of a triangle.

With Extreme E, we have two different drivers in the car of different sizes. My teammate Molly [Taylor] had an insert in her seat and I didn’t, and that compression in the final downhill run in NEOM meant that my hips were not fully fixed to the seat. When I moved forward, the weakest point of my body going over any jumps was my back. My hip moved a bit and it compressed my top vertebrae, which led to the crack.

I’ve been through worse compressions previously when competing in Rallycross, but just catching the wrong part of terrain at the wrong time was a bit too much and that caused the injury.

I experienced huge, incredible pain almost immediately and I knew I had broken my spine straight away. I had no doubt about that – I also heard the crack and it was really loud! I could feel it directly.

The first thing I did in the car was check that I could feel my legs. I tried to move them around and was relieved when I knew I could still feel them.

Then it was a long painful drive back to the Switch Zone on the speed limiter – we were still leading the Crazy Race at that moment don’t forget!

I was on the radio to the team saying that I had hurt my back, but we were in front and in my mind, I was still thinking about that knowing I had to get out of the car to help us on course.

XE: It’s amazing that in spite of the impact, you still had the capacity to think about the race and your team’s chances of victory on track. How do you recall feeling once you jumped out the car?

KH: I jumped out due to all of the adrenaline I guess. I was really scared as I know these injuries are extremely serious. I didn’t know just how bad it was at that time – whether it was fully compressed or something totally different. I just knew that the pain was crazy! It was a shooting pain right up into my chest as well.

I got some treatment really quickly and medication to ease the pain and get control over everything.
Since then, my recovery has been all about staying stable to allow for my spine to recover and heal. More recently, I have been able to move more freely as a result which has been great.

XE: What treatment did you receive as part of your rehabilitation, both immediately after the accident and upon leaving NEOM?

Kevin Hansen [courtesy Extreme E]

Kevin Hansen [courtesy Extreme E]

KH: The treatment in Saudi Arabia was great. I was immediately taken to a helicopter with the emergency services – I felt really safe from the beginning and I was really well looked after. When I arrived at the hospital, there were doctors absolutely everywhere in the room! They had to do their job and were really thorough in checking me over. I was then told there was a crack in one of the vertebras but that I would heal and recover from it after a period of time.

I had a few nurses taking care of me, too, day and night, and I was given the time to recover and get my energy back. I took my first steps after the injury in the hospital in Saudi Arabia, too, which was a big moment. I was given a high level of help which was good to feel confident in the early stages.

I then flew home before starting my rehab directly with the Red Bull Athlete Performance Center (APC). It was really hard work there, where I mainly focused on my mobility – I still had my brace on at this point, so I was concentrating on flexing and latterly exercises with the brace to start building up my core movements.

Before starting rehab at the Red Bull APC, I made sure I was always walking at home to ensure I was consistently moving whenever I could – so long as I wasn’t in pain.

This allowed me to keep the blood flowing and help heal up my back as I wasn’t staying stiff. That definitely helped with my early rehab, while I was in the brace for four weeks.

There are so many talented people at Red Bull APC, while Red Bull also have their own spinal cord programme with ‘Wings for Life’ – I knew they would be the best people in the world to work with when it came to recovering from a back injury.

The physios, nutritionists and coaches were superb and I got help with just about everything that you could imagine in order to recover from the injury. It was all tailored and structured for my recovery.

XE: It must have been a challenge to recover physically from such an injury, but what did you have to overcome from a mental perspective?

KH: I got a lot of motivation after suffering this injury. I was really hungry to get back because I knew that without hard work I would never be as good as I was before. I really think that now I am so much more structured and much stronger mentally from this experience. I feel stronger despite being beaten down by what happened. When you take a hit you can get really low – especially when you cannot move or even sleep like you want to.

I had a lot of support from my friends and family which was really nice – I think they were more worried than I was! The support I received was great and I received so many messages which was incredible in the days after – even weeks after – which meant a lot. I had a lot of people get in touch which meant a great deal – it was also really motivational for me.

You can get really vulnerable and so you have to put in the hard work to get back. If I didn’t go out and walk, or didn’t go out to Austria to get the right support, no one else was going to do it for me. This has helped me a lot. Getting into the car for the first time was a big step and now it is about pushing myself even further to focus on my performance behind the wheel.

Going back to my physical condition following the accident, I feel almost stronger than before. This is also a real positive for me. I even managed to take part in the Wings for Life World Run last weekend – which was a great feeling!

XE: It sounds like, in spite of what you have endured so far, we are going to see an even better Kevin Hansen for the rest of the season! What are the next steps in your recovery?

KH: The next step is to build up my confidence in the car. I want to really feel 110% confident and get back to my performance levels from before. It is about strengthening those competition points and look at how I can improve things. It is about building up even further my physical and mental strength. I guess it is thanks to this injury that I feel this way!

As for Sardinia… I certainly still have some unfinished business with my Crazy Races. I am still desperate for my first win in Extreme E and I hope to be back for the double-header in July.

To learn more about Extreme E, visit –

Extreme E Season 2 Calendar: 
Neom, Saudi Arabia
19-20 February 2022
Sardinia, Italy
06-07 July 2022
Sardinia, Italy
09-10 July 2022
Antofagasta, Chile
24-25 September 2022
Punta del Este, Uruguay
26-27 November 2022

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