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Rodeo Riders Risk Rough Injuries
  • Posted March 1, 2024

Rodeo Riders Risk Rough Injuries

Rodeo riders might make it all look easy, but they're actually participating in one of the most strenuous sports around, experts say.

As such, folks participating in rodeo need to take steps to protect themselves, just as other athletes do, said Dr. Omar Atassi, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

“You can get sprains or ligament tears, tendon injuries, breaks or fractures in bones in any sport,” Atassi said in a Baylor news release. “Just because you don't hear about injuries in rodeo sport since it's not as common as something like pickleball doesn't mean it can't be dangerous. When an injury does occur in rodeo sport, it can be fairly significant.”

Atassi spoke out as locals prepare for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which draws in cowboys and cowgirls for days of rodeo events.

The most common rodeo injuries are the sort of horse-related incidents that frequently occur among even weekend riders, Atassi said.

A bucking horse might hit a rider's hand with its head, potentially causing a broken hand or a strained wrist. Someone thrown from their horse might suffer an ankle sprain, torn ligaments or broken bones if their foot gets caught in the stirrup.

In a worst-case scenario, a horse could fall on the rider, resulting in a pelvis fracture, Atassi added.

Low-grade sprains or incomplete ligament tears usually heal without surgery. Treatment involves rest, ice, over-the-counter painkillers and physical therapy.

But more severe injuries might require surgery, Atassi warned.

“Once you have the surgery, that can take you out of a whole season of rodeo sports, mostly because you go to physical therapy during that period to get your strength and coordination back,” Atassi said.

It might be frustrating, but Atassi encourages rodeo riders to take their full recovery period to heal before returning to the ring. If they aren't properly healed, they could do themselves even worse harm.

“Patients think they can go back to their sport sooner since they can move easily, but that's not the right way to think of it because a lot of the recovery process is to develop your strength and coordination to prevent another injury. You have to make sure you're at 100 percent physical ability before you participate,” Atassi said.

Rodeo riders also can protect themselves against injury by following proper technique, Atassi said. Coaches and trainers can help them prepare for competition, and core strengthening and balance training can be key to avoiding injury.

Stretching before and after training also can help, as well as placing ice packs on achy joints.

With all that preparation and care, rodeo riders can run less risk of injury than casual pickleball players, Atassi noted.

“Rodeo is so niche because it's strenuous, whereas pickleball is opposite because it's approachable,” Atassi said. “People who don't play sports are starting to play pickleball and injuring themselves because they're not ready for sport. Rodeo is no different, but people who get into it are likely more prepared since it involves an animal and is strenuous.”

More information

Johns Hopkins Medicine has more about sports safety.

SOURCE: Baylor College of Medicine, news release, Feb. 27, 2024

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