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Mildenhall Fen Tigers rider Sam Norris named as keynote speaker at Headway Suffolk's neuro conference



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A teenage speedway rider, who suffered a life-threatening brain injury in a crash while racing for Mildenhall Fen Tigers, will be one of the speakers at a head injury charity’s conference next month.

Seventeen-year-old Sam Norris will be joined by his mother, Claire, at Headway Suffolk’s neuro conference when the keynote speakers will also include Dawn Astle, daughter of former England footballer, Jeff Astle, and campaigner to raise awareness of the links between dementia and heading a football, and Steve Thompson, former England Rugby world champion diagnosed with early-onset dementia possibly due to the effects of playing.

Sam sustained his near fatal injury when riding at Glasgow in 2019 and has made huge strides towards recovery in the intervening two years which have seen him become an inspiration to others going through the same situation and won him a legion of admirers.

Sam Norris on the Mildenhall Fen Tigers Press and Practice Day. Picture by Mark Westley.
Sam Norris on the Mildenhall Fen Tigers Press and Practice Day. Picture by Mark Westley.

Currently studying motor mechanics at Cambridge Regional College, he plans to move up to level 2 in September. As part of the practical experience for his studies, Sam has been working on the 250cc grass track bike on which he was unbeaten right up to two weeks before his accident.

Eight months after the crash he had already been back on a GT140 bike and he now plans to race the 250cc bike for the first time in a classic grass track club meeting near Stansted on June 20, the second anniversary of his accident.

The bike had had its engine removed when it was stored away when Sam first returned home from hospital but it wasn’t long before he started working on it. “Putting the engine back in has brought back a lot of memories,” he said.

Sam Norris at home in Linton recovering from his accident with mum Claire. Picture: Keith Heppell.
Sam Norris at home in Linton recovering from his accident with mum Claire. Picture: Keith Heppell.

“Seeing all the equipment again, like the brand new framekick, makes me realise how I lucky I am,” said Sam, who still experiences difficulties with fatigue on a daily basis.

“It is still there but it’s reduced heavily and now comes on at the end of the working day around 4pm, 5pm or 6pm,” he said.

Claire has spoken of the frustrations that living with a brain injury can bring while remaining positive at the continued progress Sam is making.

“Sam is frustrated at the moment. On the outside he wants to get back racing and be able to drive, but it’s the hidden things that frustrate,” she said.

“He feels cheated as he was doing very well and he sees what others are doing on social media and he wants to be there. But he’s passionate about getting back to where he was and he’s so motivated and driven to prove that,” she said.

“A lot of people are affected by injuries. It’s still raw, you live it every day as it’s always there, but life moves on.”

The guidance and support of his father, Chris, has also been integral in Sam’s mechanical learning at the family home near Haverhill and Sam supports his dad restoring classic fighter planes.

Sam Norris suffered a head injury while riding in Glasgow in 2019
Sam Norris suffered a head injury while riding in Glasgow in 2019

“He always says ‘Dad makes things look easy’,” said Claire. “He’s teaching him all the way through, letting him take ownership and giving him the knowledge.”

Speaking about the conference, which will be live streamed on May 12, Claire said: “What we want to emphasise is that sad things happen and it’s fighting for the support you need. Every case is different. Looks can be deceiving. It’s very much a hidden injury but you can still achieve, even if it’s in a different way.”

It will be Sam and Claire’s first public speaking appearance and Sam plans to finish with a poem written by them both. Tickets for the online event cost just £20 and can be bought by calling 01473 712225 or email info@headwaysuffolk.org.uk.

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