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Rodeo Medicine

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Rodeo Medicine

Source: Journal of San Francisco Medical Society |

Extreme sport implies extreme risk. Bull riding in particular, and rodeo in general, offer both. Statistical comparisons made between injury rates of bull riders and athletes competing in a number of sports, including American football, ice hockey, and boxing show the injury rate of bull riders to be 1,440 injuries/1,000 exposure hours. The bull riding injury rate is approximately 10.3 times the rate of injury in American football, 13.3 times the rate of injury in ice hockey, and 1.56 times the rate of injury in boxing. Providing care for these stoic athletes while they travel across the continent to compete is a challenge usually accomplished through organizations devoted to the practice of rodeo medicine.

The United States has the largest number of professional rodeos, professional bull ridings, and professional cowboys in the world. Cowboys are extreme athletes, participating in rodeo events with extreme risks.

Understanding the demands of each rodeo event and characterizing injury rates, risks, and types have been some of the early projects of rodeo medical personnel. It is safe to generalize that cowboys participating in bull riding and bareback riding events have the greatest likelihood of being injured in rodeo. Concussion injury is also prominent among rodeo participants, only slightly lower in frequency than shoulder and knee injuries.

It has been suggested that protective headgear can decrease the incidence of head and facial injuries among bull riders. The most common head injuries among bull riders are concussions, lacerations, and facial fractures. Recently, a group of research and clinical care experts published an agreement statement recommending the use of protective headgear in bull riding. However, more progress should be made in determining possible strategies for injury mitigation in the sport of bull riding. The very nature of trying to ride a 2,000-pound bucking bull makes is what makes this sport inherently more dangerous than any other.

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