Nearly three-quarters of horse-sport enthusiasts in Poland who took part in a study said they had suffered a riding-related injury.
Nearly half had experienced hand injuries, including 16.4% reporting a hand fracture. More than a quarter reported a concussion.
Researchers Rena Majchrowicz, Karolina Karaś, Piotr Matłosz and Jarosław Herbert analysed the answers of 1973 riders from across Poland who responded to an 11-question survey.
The study team, writing in the Central European Journal of Sport Sciences and Medicine, described horse riding as a satisfying and exciting sport and recreation activity.
“However, it is not without risk. A large percentage of riders experience accidents of varying degrees of severity during their professional and recreational careers.”
The researchers, with the medical college at Rzeszów University, said their questionnaire allowed them to build a full picture of injuries in horse riding. They also determined the profile of each respondent, obtaining information on their gender, age, education, and socio-professional status.
A third of respondents were aged 16 to 18; just 4.5% were aged over 35. Women made up 96.8% of survey participants. Those who took part were a mix of recreational and competitive riders.
A good number of the participants, 928 in all, had been riding for seven years or more.
The researchers found that 29.9% of respondents rode once a week, 24.9% rode twice a week, 23% rode three to four times a week, 16.6% rode five or six times a week, and 5.6% rode seven times a week.
Many respondents reported interests in other physical pursuits, including, in order of popularity, biking, running, volleyball, roller skating, swimming, gymnastics, basketball, handball, football, gym training, dancing, aerobics and yoga.
In all, 1415 people (71.7%) said they had suffered an equestrian injury, with the remainder reporting they had never experienced a riding injury.
A total of 1388 went on to describe the nature of their injury, with 45.5% reporting hand contusions, 25.4% concussions, 16.4% hand fractures, 13.6% ligament ruptures, 12.4% dislocations and shoulder joint injuries, 7.7% knee damage, 5.9% ankle injuries, 4.7% spinal injuries other than fractures and bruises, 4.3% finger dislocations or fractures, 3.7% spine fractures, and 3.7% rib injuries. Leg injuries other than fractures were reported by 3.4% of respondents, while 2.8% reported leg fractures: 2.4% reported foot fractures, 2.2% reported spinal contusions, 1.9% reported vertebral and cervical muscle injuries, 1.7% reported a collarbone fracture, and 19.1% reported other assorted injuries.
More than two-thirds of those injured reported that they had to take a break from the sport to recover, while just under a third said they could return to the saddle immediately.
Just over a half reported lingering effects from their injury.
The last question asked the riders to provide a self-assessment of their fitness. Half put their fitness at a good level, 31% at a very good level, and 18% at an average level. Only 1.3% self-assessed their fitness as poor. None of the survey participants rated their fitness as very poor.
Discussing their findings, the study team noted that previous studies have found a significant risk of accidents and injuries of the musculoskeletal system from horse riding.
The risk is present, regardless of the skill level of the rider, although several studies have shown that more experienced riders are safer and suffer fewer injuries.
“Injuries in this sport are very diverse, from head to toe,” they said. “Very often they require a longer break after suffering an injury due to long-term effects.”
The researchers found that people who rode less often experienced decidedly fewer injuries.
Often, riders are unseated when their horse shies. “Riders must always remain aware of the animal’s unpredictable nature.”
“Research results emphasize that horse riding as well as horse handling carries the risk of serious injuries, and the most common injuries are hand contusions and concussions.”
They suggest that some of the injuries could be avoided through increased knowledge, practice, and education.
“The authors believe that if the number of injuries can be reduced more people will be able to enjoy riding.
“It is imperative that riders learn equine behaviour and safety practices around horses to prevent the majority of accidents while on the ground.
“A significant reduction in the injuries and contusions of equestrians could be obtained with the use of safety equipment (helmets and vests).”
Injuries and Contusions in Recreational and Sports Horse Riding. Rena Majchrowicz, Karolina Karaś, Piotr Matłosz, Jarosław Herbert. Central European Journal of Sport Sciences and Medicine. Vol. 33, No. 1/2021: 73–80 DOI: 10.18276/cej.2021.1-07