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Equestrian Sports Leading Cause of Head Injuries
 By Winniefield Park   •   6th May 2016   •   1,374 views   •   2 comments
Equestrian Sports Leading Cause of Head Injuries

What sports do you associate with helmet use? Most likely you picture motorcycle racers, football players and skiers wearing helmets. Even in the rough, slide and tumble of hockey, it’s rare to see a mullet blowing in the wind anymore, because the player has it tucked under a helmet, likely equipped with a face shield. But, in many equine sports, riders continue to resist wearing a helmet. And that is not a good thing. Over the last few months we’ve lost several top riders, and their deaths might have been prevented by wearing a helmet. A new study suggests that equestrians sports account for about 45% of all adult sports related head injuries.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 1.7 million Americans are treated for traumatic brain injuries each year. In a study released by the Journal of Neurosurgery, by the hour, horseback riding and related sports like rodeo events account for more hospital admissions than any other high risk sport such as motorcycle riding and downhill skiing. And, helmet use is 25% or lower among horseback riders “despite the fact that helmets have been associated with as much as a 40%–50% reduction in absolute risk for TBI”1. Helmet use for downhill skiers and snowboarders has increased to the point where 70% of participants wear helmets. Although it is gaining acceptance in disciplines where a helmet is not traditional such as speed games, rodeo and dressage, helmet use has been much slower to catch on with horseback riders.

Related: Ten Reasons Not to Wear a Helmet
Related: This Helmet Saved My Life

The study was done using data collected from the National Trauma Databank with statistics from adults over the age of 18 treated in emergency departments over a ten year period. One of the more surprising statistics was the relationship between the participant's age and the incident of brain injury between horseback riders and the other sports studied. In many sports such as rollerblading and skateboarding, more injuries occurred in the 18 to 29 year old age group. However with equestrian sports, there was an increase from 21% in those 18 to 29 years to 71% in those 60 years or older, suggesting older riders were less likely to wear a helmet or perhaps were more likely to ‘over horse’ themselves.

The statistics for sports related brain injuries in children are a bit different. Children are more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) when playing a contact sport such as football or even soccer. While horse sports may be the number one cause of TBIs in adults, they rank third for children. Why? Perhaps it is because protective parents are more likely to put a helmet on their child, while leaving their own behind. And, in some areas, helmets for riders under 16 has been made law.

The study concludes that among equestrians, increasing TBI and helmet use awareness is critical to reducing the number of injuries. The takeaway for me is, while it’s essential that kids wear helmets, it’s equally important that many adults, especially older ones, change their attitude and protect their brains too.

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1http://thejns.org/doi/full/10.3171/2016.1.FOCUS15613
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Valkyrie  MOD 
I'll always wear a helmet. I like my noggin.
  16 days ago  •  1,392 views
 
Winniefield Park  
Me too! Believe me, a hard hit to the head is not a good feeling.
  8 days ago  •  1,341 views
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