CALGARY — A new study confirms what many cowboys already know — rodeo is one of the most dangerous sports in the world and that riding an angry, bucking, 900-kilogram bull can be deadly.
Dale Butterwick, a sports epidemiologist with the University of Calgary, created a rodeo injury database four years ago to gather reliable information with the goal of reducing the chances of contestants getting hurt.
His numbers show that nearly 20 of every 100,000 rodeo contestants can expect to suffer a catastrophic injury. In football, that rate is less than one in every 100,000 players. Catastrophic injuries means a player either died or had their life altered in a significant way.
“I haven’t seen any sport that comes close to that. In a scientific setting, alarm bells go off,” Butterwick said Thursday in an interview with The Canadian Press.
Of all rodeo events, Butterwick said, bull riding is the most dangerous, with most injuries happening when the rider is stomped in the chest or back.
The use of helmets and flak jackets is increasingly common, but better flak jackets are needed because the current models do little to soften the force of a stomp by an enraged bovine.
“It’s not as simple as putting a bullet-proof vest on . . . we’re not worried about a bullet with an extremely hard velocity and a very concentrated pressure,” Butterwick said. “Bulls’ feet are bigger than the spread of our hands and so they distribute this force over a bigger area.”