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Countering rodeo's high injury risk with sports medicine

PPOB Rodeo
Posted at 2:51 PM, Jul 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-18 09:11:59-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Bruises, broken bones, even some blood—it is the reality of rodeo. “It’s top to bottom. We see everything from your typical concussion, to face injuries, to shoulders, to ankles, to toes, to wound care,” said Athletic Trainer & UCCS Instructor/Researcher, Mandi Elder.

Elder is among a small group of athletic trainers, physical therapists, and doctors, many of who are volunteers, helping rodeo competitors through the Justin Sports Medicine Program.

“These guys are lifesavers. they keep us going down the road,” said a bareback bronc rider in for treatment of a wound on his forearm.

At the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, a group of three worked out of a trailer set up as a treatment room.

“They’re in here getting electrical stimulation, heat, stretching, mobilization, whatever they may need to do to keep them going,” said Justin Sports Medicine Program Director, Rick Foster.

In most other pro sports competitors have contracts where they get paid, whether they compete or are sidelined. There are few guarantees for rodeo riders. “If they don’t ride they don’t make money,” said Foster.

Many opt to compete with pain and injuries. “This is a very unique group of athletes,” said Foster, “The pain threshold is off the scale.”

The Justin Sports Medicine team is also doing research by tracking injuries, and what caused them. “We’ve worked with our data on trying to find ways we can prevent injury in the sport,” said Elder.

The research has revealed patterns of injuries specific to certain events. “Starting to see that they actually have differences in where we should pay attention,” said Elder.

The research and data have led to change. One example was an unanticipated cause of injury from the bucking horse events. “We actually have proposed one rule change for the sport, of increasing padding,” said Elder. The padding is not on the rider, instead, it goes on the metal bar at the back of the chute where the rider gets on the horse. There was a pattern of injuries from horses rearing up and the rider slamming into the bar behind them.

Regular injuries still happen. The Justin Sports Medicine team is working to lower the number and lessen the severity


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