Brian Cone’s questNovember 15, 2023
Written By Kimberly Corrigan
Brian Cone is an elite athlete who knows how to overcome adversity.
Cone was out riding his road bike on June 21, 2021 and sustained a C5/C7 spinal cord injury when he hit a gate across his bicycle path at a road crossing at 27 mph – causing paralysis from the chest down for four months. The black unmarked gate was invisible in front of the sun.
“Having an SCI makes you question how feasible everything is for the future. Just the simple act of going out for a walk with the dog is a challenge. I try to remind myself that life is a surmountable challenge.” he said.
An Aerospace Engineer by trade, Cone began reading, and working to understand his injury. With the help of friends from each decade of his life, as well as his family including wife Kelsey and daughters Sierra, 4 and Harper, 1, he began his road to recovery.
“Like everything in my life I was willing to go all out. I understood that there was a two-year neuroplastic period. I went directly out of the ICU into the acute rehab center at the University of Utah doing 4-5 hours of PT/OT a day, sometimes as much as 6. Then began outpatient work in Salt Lake at Neuroworx. That continued for a year and half,” he added.
Cone is no stranger to putting his body through the work. Previously a competitive elite level cyclist, he is a very strong recreational skier and mountaineer.
“My body has a huge base of being able to work and that translates mentally to being able to endure so much suffering. I would put in 6 hours at the PT gym, pass out and then try to be a responsible parent.”
And a responsible, involved parent he is.
Cone and his wife had their one-year-old 40 weeks to the day after his injury.
“Going to rehab and everything with Kelsey being newly pregnant and months and months of her being more pregnant, we were exhausted, but going through it together made the difference,” Cone said.
Cone said, “The most difficult moments for me were sometimes I would see that things were improving yet my pain levels were really out of control. I learned that the pain and emotional centers in the brain are very closely linked. I’ve since developed some strategies to mitigate things spiraling out of control. Some are physical, some are mental, emotional. Very much like visualizations that I give myself. I go to a tranquil place and associate with a very calm emotional and pain free existence.”
One of Cone’s goals is to have outdoor experiences with his kids as they grow up.
“I have had a pretty good run at that in my life and feel fortunate that I am able to do that still. I’d like to give being a provider a run again and I’m going to continue to work on the relationships that I do have and continue to branch out in the adaptive sports community, meet new people, talk about my path and their path and continue to share experiences in the mountains with them, as well as do my very best to raise two amazing little girls,” Cone said.
Cone has skied adaptively 30 times this past winter, a combination of xc, upright and mono. The GoHawkeyeFoundation has awarded him $4,000 toward the cost of a Hydra monoski and outriggers from DynAccess.
“What that represents to me is independent skiing. Right now, I ski with various adaptive sports groups in the area as time, budget and energy permit. One thing I do not do is ski with friends and family. Having my own ski will allow me to be a better skier in the short term and decouple my activities from the adaptive groups and ski independently with friends and family,” Cone said.
Cone and his wife are intending to come to Telluride February 2024 for the Pirate Party fundraiser. “I’m also looking forward to jogging one day – it’s a goal. Not just walking without crutches, but jogging,” Cone proclaimed.