Signs of depression common in horse riders following a fall, findings suggest

Share
Six in 10 horse riders in Britain who took part in research reported signs of depression following a fall, it has been revealed.
It was found that 58% of concussed participants reported a significant increase in depression and anxiety scores after their fall.

Six in 10 horse riders in Britain who took part in research reported signs of depression following a fall, it has been revealed.

The study, conducted by University of Sussex Master of Science student Charlotte Ricca and supported by helmet maker Charles Owen, involved 1007 riders.

“We were amazed by the number of riders willing to participate as the study required them to share quite sensitive information about their mental health,” Ricca said.

“Their willingness to share has enabled us to uncover a serious issue facing the equestrian industry today.”

The study asked participants to share details of any falls in the preceding year. It then evaluated their mental health before the fall, after the fall, and in the most recent two-week period during the study. Mental health was measured using an industry standard test called the PHQ-9.

It was found that 58% of concussed participants reported a significant increase in depression and anxiety scores after their fall. The more serious the head injury, the more severe the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The results also revealed that 30% of riders who suffered from depression had prolonged mental health problems, some up to a year after their accident.

The head of innovation at Charles Owen, Matt Stewart, said the study has replicated what has been found across other studies in sport, particularly those in rugby and American football, where 28% of professional NFL players have serious cognitive impairment as a result of concussion.

“An accident in horse riding has the potential to involve higher forces than other sports so it’s a fascinating area to study,” he said.

“Our brain doesn’t have protective mechanisms to take severe blows. When we experience an impact to the head it’s believed certain proteins are released, which impair normal brain function.”

A human will be concussed at a g-force of 70. G-force is a measurement of acceleration. Horse riding accidents can have accelerations of up to 500g, which would be life threatening on an un-helmeted head. Helmets aim to reduce the peak g-force below 250g, which is below life-threatening levels.

The study findings were released as part of a Helmet Safety for Mental Health video campaign launched during Mental Health Awareness Week, which ended in Britain on May 15.

The campaign is being run in conjunction with Riders Minds, a mental health charity dedicated to supporting 19 million British riders with their mental health.

Charity director Victoria Wright hailed the results of the most recent research. “We think this study is an important first step in what we hope will become a bigger area of study in the equestrian industry.”

Riders Minds has found that 25% of riders have suffered from depression. Further, riders who have experienced five or more concussions are twice as likely to suffer from a mental health condition as a result.

Its research also suggests that this does not always happen immediately – this can occur six months to a year after the incident.

Riders Mind, with the help of Charles Owen, is developing tools to identify problems early and recognise the warning signs.

Its newly launched Head First campaign aims to raise awareness of the effects of concussion on mental health.

Sylvia Bruce, a mental health specialist responsible for the content on the Riders Minds website, said the Head First campaign wants to get equestrians to re-think concussion.

“It is not ‘just a bang on the head’, it’s a brain injury,” she says. “If our brain is injured, our mind can be injured too, with potential far-reaching implications on our mental health and well-being.”

As part of the campaign, Riders Minds have created the Head First Checker,  a comprehensive tool to allow people to identify any signs of change, including brain function and mental health, and the early warning signs.

The tool includes four key areas: Cognitive changes, mood/behaviour, physical signs and alterations to sleep patterns.

Riders Minds recently marked its third birthday. It operates a 24-hour-a-day free confidential helpline in the UK on 0300 102 1540, or text 07860 065 202 for those who need support or would like to talk to someone.

Horsetalk.co.nz

Latest research and information from the horse world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.