Rodeo is a popular sport in KOTA Territory. Athletes begin young lassoing and riding horses, eventually moving on to saddle bronc, bareback and bull riding. Jerking, bucking, whipping and finally dismounting or falling. The affects that rodeo has on participants' bodies are no joke.
According to a study by Mobile Sports Medicine Systems and organization that works with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, bull riding is the event with the most injuries. Over 50 percent of athletes get hurt. Bareback riding injures are the highest, 23.6 percent. Saddle bronc athletes comes in third with 18.7 percent being injured.
Shane O'Connell, a bull and bareback rider, says injuries are just a part of rodeo. "I've survived; things will happen but it's just rodeo. You get to learn to be tough," O'Connell said.
O'Connell has been riding most of his life. "The first time I got on a calf I was 5 years old. And it was my first time in the ER," O'Connell admitted. "But I just had a couple of stitches."
O'Connell, who plays other sports, says he is injured more in wrestling and football.
Dr. Gary Welsh, an urgent care physician, says rodeo is different from other sports and it's dangerous. "You can get injured in any sport but the lifelong injuries of a broken neck to repeated concussions are very important," said Welsh.
Aside from more serious injuries like neck, back and head trauma, Welsh says strained upper arms, torn shoulders and broken wrist, injuries that can occur riding rodeo, can stick with riders for the rest of their lives.
Welsh encourages saddle bronc, bareback and bull riders to wear helmets and mouth guards. And all participants should get tested regularly for concussions.
The South Dakota High School Rodeo Association prohibits athletes from participating without a physical. And if an athlete has suffered a concussion, he or she would need a doctors' "okay" before riding again.