Common injuries at RODEOHOUSTON

Rodeo has returned to Houston! Last week, we shared what a typical day was like for the RodeoHouston® sports medicine team. To recap, Houston Methodist serves as the official health care provider for RodeoHouston. The sports medicine team consists of medical volunteers from across the city, who take care of the rodeo athletes and their families before, during and after the competitions.

Just like any other elite athlete, @rodeohouston competitors deal with injuries. Click To Tweet

Just like any other elite athlete, rodeo competitors deal with injuries. But did you know the types of injuries vary by competition? I talked to Dr. Timothy Sitter, the lead orthopedic surgeon on the RodeoHouston sports medicine team, about the rodeo injuries he’s seen in his nearly 20 years working with RodeoHouston.

Tie-Down Roping and Steer Wrestling: The most common injuries in these rodeo athletes occur in the knee. “If you’ve ever wondered why the dirt on the stadium or arena floor is being tilled up between events, it’s to keep it soft for events like tie-down roping and steer wrestling,” Dr. Sitter said. “These cowboys are coming down off their horses fast, so they keep the dirt around one foot-thick and soft because hitting a hard surface, like packed dirt, can cause a lot of damage to the knee.”

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Team Roping: As part of this event, the cowboy or cowgirl must wrap the rope around their saddle horn a few times after they’ve roped the steer. Because the steer will pull on and tighten the rope, the competitor’s must wrap the rope around the saddle horn quickly and be sure to get their hands out of the way. Many riders have gotten their fingers caught in the rope while wrapping it around the saddle horn causing damage to or even losing a finger.

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Bareback and Saddle Bronc Riding: “Elbow and shoulder injuries are common in this event,” Dr. Sitter said. “The cowboys are holding on to the rope to stay on the horse, so their shoulder and elbow are under a lot of stress. These athletes deal with a lot of sprains, strains and ligament tears.” Dr. Sitter added that most of these cowboys also wear neck collars to help prevent whiplash.

Barrel Racing: The key to barrel racing is to make tight turns around the barrels. Dr. Sitter said many of the cowgirls will hit their knees on the barrels, which can cause ligament tears and even fractures.

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Bull Riding: One might think that the most common injury in bull riders is caused by whiplash or getting their hand caught in the rope, but the most common injury in these athletes is to the groin and hip. “The cowboys are holding on to the bull with their knees,” Dr. Sitter said. “The groin and hip muscles are straining because the knees are clinching on to the bull. Many bull riders work on increasing the flexibility in their hips to help prevent groin and hip muscle strains.”

No matter the event or injuries, the cowboys and cowgirls at RodeoHouston have a multi-disciplinary team at the ready to take care of them and get them back in the saddle.

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!