Results of a recent study by a University of Calgary researcher confirm that bull riding is the most dangerous event in rodeo, which the registry shows is one of the world’s most dangerous sports.
Results of Faculty of Kinesiology researcher Dale Butterwick’s Catastrophic Injury Registry published in the May 2011 edition of the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, show that between 1989 and 2009 the incidence rate of catastrophic injury was 9.45 per 100,000 participants and between 2007 – 2009 the rate was 19.81 per 100,000.
“The registry gives us a better understanding of how these catastrophic injuries occur,” says Butterwick. It also highlights the interventions that seem to be working and points to future interventions that might reduce the risk.”
The study defines “catastrophic” as an incident that results either in fatality or life-changing injury. The registry had reports of 49 catastrophic injuries since 1989, including 21 fatalities, far more than any other professional sport. The majority of these injuries came in “rough stock events”, which include bull riding, junior bull riding, steer riding, saddle bronc riding and bareback riding. Of these sports, bull riding was by far the most dangerous sport with 11 fatalities, nine catastrophic injuries and seven serious injuries.
The ages of the injured ranged from nine years old to 49 years old, with one-third of the injured competitors being 17 years of age or younger. Most of the injured competitors were male, however two women were killed in the sport of barrel racing. The study showed that 70 percent of fatalities came from cowboys being struck by livestock, the remainder involved contact between the cowboy and the arena infrastructure.
One of the reasons that the registry was created was to begin to evaluate how effective cowboy safety gear like helmets and protective vests are in competition. None of the athletes who died from head injuries were wearing helmets, and the majority of the registry fatalities came from “thoracic compression”—cowboys being struck in the upper body by livestock. Most of the bull riders killed in this way were wearing protective vests—a finding that Butterwick says should be viewed with some caution.
“I’m not sure you can look at that statistic and say that rodeo vests are useless,” said Butterwick. “When a cowboy is pinned between the ground or the arena and struck by a 900kg bull, I very much doubt there’s any protective equipment that could make a difference. It may well be that these vests work to protect cowboys from glancing blows, but these are the kinds of questions we’ll likely be addressing in the future.”
Butterwick notes that the injury registry is still operational and continues to receive information on current and past rodeo injury.
“The whole point of the registry was to understand better how these serious injuries occur,” said Butterwick. “You can’t work toward better equipment and better solutions without understanding the problem. Our hope is that this registry will grow and become an essential injury reporting tool for the sport of rodeo.”
To report catastrophic or serious injury to the registry head to: http://www.sportmed.ucalgary.ca/rodeo