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Proper Equipment Helps Prevent Injuries for Equestrians Too

Equestrian activities are extremely popular in the United States, with more than 30 million participants, according to CDC estimates. 1 Due to the speeds, height, and weight of the horses, injuries are relatively frequent, and can be severe. Estimates from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) indicate that 76,000 individuals were treated in U.S. Emergency Departments in 2004, with 23,000 under the age of 18. 2

Injury rates exceed that of motorcycle racing, skiing, and American football, with a large percentage of injuries leading to long-term disability. 1 Fatality rates are also among the highest of all sporting events, with numbers as high as 1 in 10,000 riders, mostly due to head injury. 3 Given the high incidence of injuries and volume of participants, sports medicine physicians and equestrian athletes should be aware of the injuries associated with this sport.

Experience also appears to be closely associated with injury risk. In a study of 679 equestrians, authors found 1 in 5 athletes experienced an injury during their riding career. Novice riders experienced a five-fold increase in injury rates compared to advanced riders, and an eight-fold increase compared to professional riders. This information suggests that special attention should be paid to novice riders in regard to teaching and preventable measures given their increased risk of injury. 2

The majority of serious injuries are related to head trauma. Helmets have been shown to decrease the injury risk and severity during equestrian activities, but widespread use is lacking. Seventy-four percent of novice riders report wearing helmets when riding, but that number decreases to 58 percent of advanced riders. 2 Helmets are often required at sanctioned riding events, but limited use outside of events is a concern. Protective vests are also required by the majority of riding organizations, but regular use outside of events is uncommon. Chest, rib, collar bone fractures, collapsed lung, etc. are very common in this group.

Equestrian riders have one of the highest injury and fatality rates of all sporting participants. Novice riders should take extra precautions to minimize risks. The regular use of helmets and chest protection is highly recommended. Riders and physicians should work closely together to help minimize injury risk in this unique group of athletes

References 1. Havlik HS. Equestrian sport-related injuries: a review of current literature. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2010 Sep-Oct;9(5):299-302. 2. Mayberry JC, Pearson TE, Wiger KJ, Diggs BS, Mullins RJ. Equestrian injury prevention efforts need more attention to novice riders. J Trauma. 2007 Mar;62(3):735-9. 3. Smartt P, Chalmers D. A new look at horse-related sport and recreational injury in New Zealand. 1 J Sci Med Sport. 2009 May;12(3):376-82.

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