NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The rough-and-tumble world of rodeo puts competitors at a high risk of injury, but better prevention efforts and a little less machismo might help, according to a new report.
Among rodeo events, bull riding takes the greatest injury toll, but bareback riding, steer wrestling and calf roping carry significant risks as well, according to Dr. Daniel J. Downey of Pioneer Medical Specialists in Dillon, Montana.
Writing in the journal Current Sports Medicine Reports, he details the range of injuries that rodeo competitors sustain, and the relative lack of protective measures in the sport.
A study of nearly 2,000 professional rodeo events between 1981 and 2005 found that half of all injuries occurred during bull riding. Knee and shoulder injuries are most common, according to Downey, but "most alarming" are the head injuries. Concussions account for nearly 9 percent of all bull riding injuries, he notes.
Yet, despite medical opinion that bull riders should wear protective head gear, head gear is a rarity in rodeo, according to Downey. What's more, outside of high school competitions, there is no requirement that competitors who've sustained a concussion get medical clearance before returning to the sport.
Other typical rodeo injuries include finger amputations during calf roping, sprains to the knee, shoulder or ankle, and chronic problems that develop from such injuries. Riders are also at risk of being gored or stomped after dismounting or being thrown from an animal.
Protective vests have been found to lower the risk of rib fractures and penetrating chest wounds, Downey points out, and rodeo competitors have been fairly open to using them. Few are willing to use head gear, however.
"The 'machismo' culture of rodeo certainly plays a part in lack of head-gear acceptance," he writes.
It "seems reasonable," according to Downey, to encourage rodeo organizers to require protective vests and head gear, especially for bull riders.
Having doctors at rodeo events could also help, he suggests. Currently, national rodeo organizations require only that paramedics be present.
"Our hope," Downey writes, "is that the sport of rodeo will be made safer for the athlete through greater physician interaction with the rodeo organizations and athletes in the future."
SOURCE: Current Sports Medicine Reports, October 2007.