PRCA Champ Tim O’Connell on the mend

Reigning three-time PRCA World Champion Bareback Rider Tim O’Connell has been out of competition and focused on recovery since suffering a shoulder injury at the 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“It’s going so-so, I ran into some complications a month ago,” O’Connell said.

During Round 10 of the Wrangler NFR, the Iowa cowboy posted an 87-point ride on J Bar J’s All Pink and went home with his third consecutive gold buckle. But the ride also saw him suffer a torn rotator cuff and torn labrum.

O’Connell won $132,551 at the Finals and finished the season with $319,801. He also split the average title with Steven Dent, each finishing with 849.5 points on 10 head. It was O’Connell’s third consecutive Wrangler NFR average title.

After returning home from the Wrangler NFR, O’Connell, 27, had an X-ray and an MRI, with the results sent to Dr. Tandy Freeman of Justin Sportsmedicine. In mid-January, O’Connell announced he was out of competition until summer. Since, he’s been in physical therapy six days a week with sessions lasting three-to-four hours.

“Honestly, that was the downfall,” O’Connell said. “I was doing too much too soon, and they said my body reacted, and it locked my shoulder up.”

O’Connell and his family moved to Texas to be closer to a massage therapist that was recommended by Freeman.

“Surgery laid down an excessive amount of scar tissue, and the massages are breaking that up,” O’Connell said, adding that he anticipates needing a month after the scar tissue is broken up before he’s rodeo-ready.

As of May 9, O’Connell had the Reno (Nev.) Rodeo on his radar but isn’t sure if he’ll be ready in time for the ProRodeo Tour event.

“I’m really hoping to be back by the Fourth of July,” O’Connell said. “We’ll just see. If I’m at 80% I will (come back). I feel like I can make the Finals if I do the Fourth of July on. If I miss Fourth of July, I’ll rethink the year and wait until I’m 100% to come back.”

O’Connell has $8,363 in the PRCA | RAM World Standings, earned in the fall of this season.

“I feel confident in my ability as a bareback rider, and I have $8,000 won on the year, so that’s a huge help too,” O’Connell said. “If I’m back by the Fourth of July, that’s only $20,000-$30,000 behind the 15th man, and I can make that up.”

Hypothetically, if the 2019 season is like the 2018 season, he’ll need to win about $65,000 in the final three months to qualify for the Wrangler NFR, a feat he accomplished last season.

On June 25, 2018, O’Connell had $76,895. From the Fourth of July run to the close of the 2018 regular season, he added more than $100,000, finishing with $187,250 on Sept. 30.

The 15th qualifier for the 2018 Wrangler NFR got in with $77,497.

O’Connell has an ace up his sleeve for when he comes back – being able to enter as many rodeos as he wants.

“I can double myself up and get on something good every day, and when I do that it’s tough to beat me,” O’Connell said. “There’s a lot to win from the Fourth to the end of the year. I won $112,000 (during those months last year), and I didn’t even have a good fall.”

In the meantime, O’Connell is focusing on recovery while enjoying time with his son, Hazen.

“I miss rodeo more than I thought I would,” O’Connell laughed. “It relit a fire I’d kind of lost a little bit. I was upset to miss The American and Houston and the winter run. I love everything about rodeoing.”