Behind the scenes at RODEOHOUSTON

f you live in or near Houston, March is the month you pull out your western gear and become a cowboy or cowgirl to celebrate the return of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™. RodeoHouston® has it all – a BBQ cook-off, mutton bustin’ for the kiddos, bull riders, barrel racers and hit music stars.

While Houstonians enjoy the festivities for the entire month of March, the rodeo contestants come to town to compete for three days before moving on to the next rodeo. Sprains, strains, fractures, concussions – these are just a few of the injuries contestants risk when they enter the competition. To continue their sport, contestants need a team of health care professionals to back them up. That’s why Houston Methodist is proud to serve as the official health care provider for RodeoHouston.

In a typical night, the @RodeoHouston sports medicine team averages 60-70 treatments for the contestants. Click To Tweet

Houston Methodist coordinates the RodeoHouston sports medicine team with medical volunteers from across the city to ensure a multi-disciplinary team is available to care for contestants and their families. For the sports medicine team, the show starts long before you find your seat in NRG Stadium. A typical day in the RodeoHouston training room looks like this:

  • 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. – A physical therapist treats athletes and Rodeo staff (think Rodeo clowns and other support staff) for injuries sustained the night before or pre-existing injuries
  • 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. – Lunch break (eat while you can!)
  • 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. – Restock supplies (we go through a lot of tape and ice)
  • 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. – Prepare for the pre-event madness
  • 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. – The competitions usually start around 6 p.m., so between 4 and 6 p.m. is the madness.

In a typical night, we’ll average 60 to 70 treatments for the rodeo contestants. The cowboys and cowgirls come in to ice sore muscles, get therapy for aches and pains, tape their ankles, ask the primary care physician about a lingering health issue like a cold or get the surgeon’s opinion on a recurring shoulder problem. Our team also performs and reads x-rays on-site. 

At the same time, we’re treating the rodeo athletes’ family members. Many contestants travel with their spouses and children, so they need medical care while on the road, too. It may be the husband of a barrel racer with back pain or the son of a bull rider with an ear infection – the team can take care of them all. 

When the competition starts, the contestants know the same team of medical experts taking care of them in the training room will be standing by in case a ride doesn’t go their way. In the arena, two athletic trainers, two emergency medicine/trauma physicians, a team of paramedics and an orthopedic surgeon are ready to provide care if a rider is injured. In case of a concussion, we have neuropsychologist on call to provide an evaluation and treatment recommendations.

When the rodeo is over and the fans are waiting for the concert to begin, the training room is once again packed with athletes coming in to see the medical staff. While not all injuries that occur on the arena floor are serious, they can cause problems if left untreated before the next rodeo in the next town. 

The next day, the cycle repeats. Although the medical staff may change from day to day, we all have the same mission and provide the same level of care for each of the athletes and their family members.

After three days, the contestants move on to the next rodeo, and at the end of March, the medical staff will go back to their normal practices. So, if you’re heading to the rodeo, keep an eye out for the guys and gals in red vests. We’ll be there all night, every night, keeping the contestants at their best. Yeehaw!

Does high-intensity interval training live up to the hype?

When it comes to exercise, people usually subscribe to the notion that “more is better.” Many health organizations recommend at least two hours of moderate exercise a week, claiming that ramping up to five hours or more confers even more health benefits.

What if the key to getting the most out of exercise wasn’t the amount, but the intensity? What if you could get as many (if not more) benefits from as little as a couple minutes of exercise a week as opposed to several hours?

It may sound like I’m a television fitness guru that’s trying to sell you a series of DVDs, but I’m not. What I’m talking about is high-intensity interval training or HIIT. The time commitment is low and the benefits are real.

The time commitment is low and the benefits are real for high-intensity interval training (HIIT) Click To Tweet

How do HIIT and traditional exercise differ?

Exercises such as jogging, walking or cycling are usually given shorthand names like steady-state cardio or aerobic exercise. Their key features are that the intensity is low to moderate and the time commitment is usually 30 minutes or more a session.

In contrast, HIIT is characterized by extremely short periods of all-out intensity (such as sprinting) followed by timed rest periods. Watch this clip from an episode of BBC’s Horizons series. It shows how short, but intense HIIT can be:


Why you may want to cut back on long-term steady-state cardio

Doing things like going for a short, daily walk or participating in a yoga class is great for your health. Research reviews continually show that regular physical activity is helpful in managing and preventing chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure.

However, when people commit large portions of time to steady-state cardio activities (think Iron Man participants and endurance athletes), the health benefits start to taper off and negatives can be the unfortunate result.

While lots of cardio may seem healthy, consistently overdoing it may result in negative health effects Click To Tweet

Studies from the Mayo Clinic, Journal of Applied Physiology, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise and the European Heart Journal have found endurance athletes show abnormal thickening of heart valves, a potential sign of heart failure.

That same population has been found to have highly-elevated levels of cortisol (a stress-response hormone), increased C-reactive protein (a sign of inflammation) and exhibit symptoms like immune system deficits, sleep difficulties and mood disturbances.

What are the benefits of HIIT?

Whereas too much long-term steady-state cardio can have negative effects on an individual’s heart, low volumes of HIIT (around three sessions a week) can improve heart artery stiffness and cardiovascular functions.

Studies have shown HIIT to have many other benefits such as:

How do you perform a HIIT session?

Some online guides complicate HIIT, calling for things like mixing free weights with bodyweight squats. An effective HIIT session really can be as simple as the video clip above from BBC Horizons.

If you’re just starting and/or want to keep things simple, stick with one form of cardio, such as sprinting or cycling on a stationary bike. Then follow a template such as this up to three times a week:

How to perform a HIIT session

The lowdown on caffeine: fact or fiction

When we wake up in the morning, many of us think of one thing: coffee. You drag your body out of bed just to stumble to the coffee maker. That morning dose of caffeine provides the boost that gets you going. It wakes you up, gives you energy and helps your morning productivity.

Caffeine has been hailed for its health benefits and studied relentlessly, but how much do you really know about caffeine? What is fact and fiction?

Caffeine is a drug.

Fact: Caffeine is a pharmacologically-active substance; it can work as a mild stimulant, and therefore is a drug. Some caffeine drinkers report difficulty in reducing or stopping caffeine. Caffeine is addictive and withdrawal can cause symptoms such as headache, loss of energy, fatigue, drowsiness, irritability, anxiety, nausea and depression.

Caffeine is good for kids (ages 8-17).

Myth: Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require manufacturers to list caffeine content on nutrition labels, it’s often hard to tell whether a product contains the stimulant, and how much. Even low doses of caffeine—such as a small soda—have an effect on kids’ blood pressure and heart rates. New research suggests that boys are impacted by the effects of caffeine more than girls.

Over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed in the world every day, making it the most popular caffeine drink.
Over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed in the world every day, making it the most popular caffeinated drink.

Two grande coffees from Starbucks is a good amount to drink per day.

Myth: The recommended daily intake of caffeine is 400mg. One grande coffee from Starbucks contains 330mg of caffeine. Experts suggest staying closer to 200mg in order to reap the benefits and avoid problems. Each person is different; weight, age, and tolerance should be considered.

Coffee makes a drunk person sober and fit to drive.

Myth: Studies reveal this widely perceived claim is false. Caffeine is known for making people more alert, which presumably led to the idea, but it can’t remove the cognitive deficits that alcohol causes.

Cigarette smokers metabolize caffeine faster than nonsmokers.

Fact: Caffeine metabolism is slower among infants, pregnant women, women taking oral contraceptives and individuals with liver disease. Cigarette smokers can actually metabolize caffeine twice as fast as non-smokers.

Cigarette smokers can actually metabolize caffeine twice as fast as non-smokers Click To Tweet

4 cups of coffee = 10 cans of soda = 2 energy shots.

Fact: Click here for more information on caffeine content in foods.

You can’t overdose of caffeine.

Myth: Although it is uncommon, there have been deaths reported due to an overdose of caffeine.

While too much caffeine can be determinantal, moderate amounts in beverages like coffee can have health benefits.
While too much caffeine can be determinantal, moderate amounts in beverages like coffee can have health benefits.

Caffeine can be found in drinks, food and medicines.

Fact: Caffeine is found in more than 60 plants including coffee beans, tea leaves, kola nuts (used to flavor soft drinks) and cacao pods. It can also be found in foods like chocolate, ice cream and energy water, and medicines such as weight-loss pills, pain relievers and migraine medications. You can even spray caffeine directly on your skin.

Caffeine may help protect against some diseases.

Fact: Studies have shown a healthy dose of caffeine could help protect against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke and help boost long-term memory. It has also been reported that it reduces suicide risk in adults, risk of liver cancer and the risk of mouth and throat cancer.

Caffeine could help protect against diabetes, heart disease and stroke Click To Tweet

Caffeine is good before a workout.

Myth: Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it makes your body lose more water, which could lead to dehydration. Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee, soda, or energy drinks before a workout. If you drink caffeine before, make sure to drink enough water throughout and after your workout in order to stay hydrated.