Sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBI) affect up to 3.8 million people a year in the U.S, according to experts. A study looking at more than 4700 adults with sports-related TBIs in the U.S. over ten-years found equestrian sports contributed the most sports-related head injuries.
The study, Adult sports-related traumatic brain injury in United States trauma centers retrospectively analyzed sports-related TBI data. The study’s authors utilized the National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB) to find adults, 18 years and older, that fit the criteria across five sporting categories: fall or interpersonal contact (FIC), roller sports, skiing/snowboarding, equestrian sports (including rodeo), and aquatic sports.
For those over 40-years old, 50% of TBIs are due to equine-related sports the study says. That is an increase from 45.2% for their younger counterparts. The finding is consistent with those in previous reports indicating greater rates of severe traumatic injury in equestrian sports than in other sports including football, rugby, and skiing.[irp]
Horseback riding results in a higher rate of hospital admission than other high-risk activities such as motorcycle riding, according to one report. Head injuries in equestrian sports are not associated with increased mortality rates or prolonged hospital stays when compared with those incurred in other sports.
Researchers state one clear approach for reducing the risk of TBIs while participating in horse sports is the use of riding helmets. They discovered helmet use is 25% or lower across some equestrian sports.
Helmets have been associated with as much as a 40% to 50% reduction in TBIs.