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Horseback-riding injuries are a ‘frequently ignored public health issue,’ say researchers

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Edinburg, TX — The risk of hospitalization for injuries related to horseback riding surpasses that for football, skiing, and auto and motorcycle racing, according to researchers at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Using the National Trauma Data Bank, the researchers examined data for nearly 25,000 adults who suffered equestrian injuries between 2007 and 2016. Findings show that chest injuries were the most common, experienced by 37.1% of the riders, while injuries to the arms and legs (26.5%) and head (23%) followed. The average age of those injured was 47.

Among the 320 riders who suffered fatal injuries while on horseback, head and neck injuries were the leading cause of death in 75% of the cases. Additionally, 3.5% of the riders suffered severe neurological damage stemming from their injury.

In a press release, the researchers say that “when controlled for hours of activity, horseback riding resulted in a higher proportion of hospital admission than other higher risk activities.” They call equestrian injuries a “frequently ignored public health issue,” and point to other studies indicating that many injured riders weren’t wearing helmets when their incident occurred.


They add, “It stands to reason that raising awareness of the possible injuries and increasing preventive measures to protect against head injuries would significantly reduce mortality.”

The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment offers advice for safe horseback riding, including wearing a helmet and protective vest. Other tips:

  • Never ride alone, and carry a cellphone in a secure place where it can’t be a distraction.
  • Always make sure someone knows where you’re riding.
  • Keep your feet in the stirrups throughout the ride.

The study was published online in the journal Trauma Surgery & Acute Care Open.

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