Most of the media attention on sports-related concussions and traumatic brain injuries have focused on the dangers of contact sports such as football and soccer. However, a recent study published in the journal Neurological Focus found that equestrian accidents are actually the most common cause of TBIs for adults.
These accidents, which usually involve a fall from a horse, don’t generally occur repeatedly, as blows to the head in football and soccer do. However, one injury can have severe consequences. As one neurocritical care doctor says, “I would be more afraid about one single fall that would start a fracture...or bleed in the brain” and permanent damage.
The study, which used National Trauma Databank statistics from 2003 and 2012, found that over 45 percent of adult TBIs were caused by horseback riding activities. Contact sports accounted for less than half that.
Another study of TBIs in children and adolescents confirmed that contact sport injuries (generally hits and falls) accounted for the majority of head injuries. Roller skating and skateboarding came in second, while equestrian sports ranked third.
The permanent changes to the brain caused by a TBI are still being studied. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is a neurodegenerative disease commonly referred to as CTE, is one that has been found to plague athletes who suffered serious or multiple head injuries. Studies involving the effects of TBI may be able to benefit anyone who has suffered one, regardless of the cause.
Like any sport that involves the risk of serious injury, it’s essential that participants use proper safety gear, such as helmets. They and those supervising the activity need to take all reasonable precautions to prevent injury. When someone is injured in an equestrian accident due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness, it may be possible to take legal action to seek the compensation needed to make as full a recovery as possible.