Concussion researchers put spotlight on rodeo riders


Rodeo riders would benefit from a return-to-play (RTP) protocol such as those being introduced into other high-contact sports, US concussion researchers say.

After reviewing literature on concussion in rodeo, US researchers Alissa Wicklund, Shayla Foster and Ashley Roy found that, despite a high incidence of injury in their sport, rodeo athletes were underrepresented in research. No standard post-concussion protocols are available across rodeo organizations for evaluating fitness to return to competition.

They also pointed out the “unique barriers” that complicated the management and treatment of rodeo athletes with concussion, such as “the solo nature of the sport, lack of consistent access to health care professionals, and athletic conditioning that often occurs outside of a traditional gym-based exercise regimen”.

Their findings have been published in the Journal of Athletic Training.

“In addition, the rodeo culture encourages a swift return to competition after injury.”

They said that best practices for managing concussion were removal from activity, proper diagnostic evaluation, and gradual return to sport, with medical clearance when an athlete is symptom free and able to tolerate cognitive and physical exertion. An RTP protocol for rodeo events needs to capture the distinctive features and challenges of the sport and its athletes.

“Rodeo athletes represent a sport population that has received little formal guidance on the diagnosis, management, and RTP after concussion. A sport-specific RTP protocol sensitive to the particular culture of these athletes is an important first step in protecting the health and safety of rodeo athletes after a concussive injury.”

They said rodeo athletes could benefit from an RTP protocol that can be initiated by an athletic trainer or medical professional in the acute stage of injury. Such a protocol would integrate exercise into activities of daily living, and be appropriate for athletes who travel frequently.

“At the organizational sport level, a formal RTP protocol could enhance consistency in medical-clearance techniques among providers responsible for the return to sport of rodeo athletes.”

Alissa Wicklund is a neuropsychologist and a sports concussion specialist at the Orthopaedic and Spine Center of the Rockies, OCR Regional Concussion Center in Fort Collins, Colorado. Athletic trainer Shayla Foster is also with the OCR center, and Ashley Roy is with the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in Columbus, Ohio.

Getting Back on the Horse: Sport-Specific Return to Play in Rodeo Athletes After Concussion Injury. A Wicklund, SD Foster, AA Roy. J Athl Train. 2018 Jul;53(7):657-661. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-310-17

7 thoughts on “Concussion researchers put spotlight on rodeo riders

  • November 24, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    EASY FIX: BAN ALL RODEOS! This nonsense has NOTHING to do with life on a working ranch. REAL cowboys never routinely rodeo bulls, or wrestled steers, or rode bareback. It’s all hype. Nor did they put flank straps on the horses & bulls. Follow the money.

    Nearly EVERY animal welfare organization in the country condemns rodeo due to its inherent cruelty. For most of these exploited and abused animals, rodeo is merely a detour en route to the slaughterhouse. Nor can rodeo be considered a “sport.” True sport involves willing, equally-matched participants. Rodeo does not qualify.

    • November 26, 2018 at 1:10 pm

      I doubt if rodeos will ever be banned, in spite how animal activist think. The contestants are a very close, mannerly & kind ‘family’ to start with and very good athletes in their SPORT. (Does it need to be said that children’s football should be banned too! I think adult football is an unhealthy sport.). To say it has nothing to do with working ranch life is just an opinion (as does labeling what one thinks is a true sport or not). Even ranchers need to hone their horse and cattle skills regularly. Rodeo tradition & competition go back to before most of us were born & were quite different than they are today. Today rodeos are very in tune to animal health and welfare. Most livestock work no more than 8 seconds a day. Bucking is a natural act with most cattle and horses. Horses sometimes do that on their own or in the early stages of training. Bucking straps are usually are more of a discomfort than a real pain. (I’ve had undergarments that are worse.) Rodeos & contractors are under kinder rules with using spurs & roping calves & horn protection covers these days. To those that think that all rodeo animals are en-route to the slaughter house, have no idea of the breeding programs these rodeo contractors have. Many of these animals are noted in the ‘ rodeo hall of fame’. Soon there will be a bucking horse registry/association. So no matter what others think, rodeo stock get much respect as well as those in rodeo promoting them.

  • November 25, 2018 at 5:59 am

    Rodeo participants should have their heads examined not after concussions, but before to determine why anyone with a brain would chose to take part in this cruel”sport”.

  • November 25, 2018 at 9:41 am

    If the rodeo riders think they have it bad, they should consider the animals they torture before they send them to slaughter. The late Dr. C.G. Haber, a veterinarian who spent 30 years as a federal meat inspector, saw many animals from rodeos sold to the slaughterhouses he inspected. He described seeing animals “with six to eight ribs broken from the spine and, at times, puncturing the lungs,” in addition to “as much as two to three gallons of free blood accumulated under the detached skin. The rodeo people should be ashamed of themselves.

  • November 26, 2018 at 4:03 am

    The human rodeo participants have a choice. They can choose to put themselves in harm’s way or they can choose a different “profession”.

    The animals have no choice. Not only do they not have a choice, but horses and bulls face serious injuries or death because they are forced to buck beyond normal playful bucking due to the flank straps and spurs. Many are injured and some die. At least three bucking horses were euthanized this year due to rodeo injuries. Roping calves are babies. Many are injured, especially in the practice pens. Meat inspection veterinarians describe their injuries as massive including internal hemorrhage, broken bones, organ damage and damage to the ligamentum nuchae of the neck.

    Rodeo needs to end permanently for the safety of both the human and animal participants.

  • November 27, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    Lots of folks that have no idea what they are talking about. Article however is spot on about concussions in rodeo.

  • November 30, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    Rodeo will die soon, similar to the Circus. Humans won’t tolerate watching animal abuse anymore for the sake of a “sport” that never was a sport to begin with. Let’s leave animals alone and let them live their lives in peace ~


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