- Keith Hamm, Action Sports
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Back on his board after a traumatic brain injury that had him sidelined for the better part of six months, pro skateboarder Adam Taylor was given the green light last week to compete in Skateboard Vert at X Games Los Angeles.
"I wasn't planning on skating X Games," the 22-year-old regular-footer told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "But I've been skating a lot lately and progressing. I think by next week, I'll be skating again at a competitive level, and I'm very excited about X Games."
On June 15, Taylor said his doctor cleared him to skate the Vert comp. Taylor's best finish in that event came last year when he placed fifth. He's better known for his showings in Big Air, with a competitive best last year, winning the silver medal.
Taylor says he doesn't feel ready to ride Big Air this time around. "Riding the MegaRamp is just, you know, heavy duty skateboarding. I don't want to push it," he said.
Taylor's battle back from brain trauma began in October 2010, when he slammed the back of his helmeted head during vert practice at the Dew Tour's season finale in Las Vegas. He describes the injury as having torn apart important hardwiring in his brain, affecting not only his motor skills but also the way he regulates emotion and judgment.
"In that split second, my whole life changed," he says.
On the mend for more than a year, peaking physically but still compromised mentally, Taylor suffered another severe brain injury while snowboarding on New Year's Day in Southern California. That high-speed head snap -- again while wearing a helmet -- aggravated his previous head trauma and set him up for increasingly serious injuries in the future.
With successive head injuries that include unconsciousness, Taylor says, "each time it just gets way worse. So I can't push it harder than I'd like to. I've got to keep it chill."
Tune into the Skateboard Vert finals at X Games LA on Saturday, June 30 starting at 9 p.m. on ESPN. Check out the full tune-in schedule here.