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Common Injuries in Horseback Riding

A Review

Abstract

The most common location of horse-related injuries is the upper extremity (24% to 61%) with injuries to the lower extremity second in frequency (36% to 40%). The head and face sustain 20% of horse-related injuries. The most common type of injury is a soft tissue injury (92% to 1%), followed by a fracture (57% to 3%). Concussion is the third most common type of injury (63% to 2%). The most frequent cause of hospitalisation is concussion (38% to 4%) with fracture second. The most common injury which leaves residual impairment is injury to the central nervous system.

The age at which most injury occurred is less than 21 years. In the latest NEISS report (1987–1988), injuries have decreased in the younger riders, but have increased in the older riders (above 24 years). More women are injured than men, but over the age of 44 years more men are injured than women, with the difference more marked in the 1987–1988 NEISS report. Previous horse-related injuries are reported frequently (37% to 25%).

In mortality studies from Australia and the United States, head injuries caused the majority of deaths (78% and 60%), followed by chest injuries (9%). In the Australian study each sex had 50% of the deaths. In the United States, 60% were male, 40% female. Above the age of 24 years male deaths increasingly predominate, being 15 male deaths to 1 female above the age of 64.

Concussion is divided into 3 divisions of severity which require different medical evaluation and treatment: mild in which rider is stunned or disoriented for a brief period; moderate in which there is loss of consciousness for less than 5 minutes; and severe in which there is a loss of consciousness for more than 5 minutes.

Investigative need is cited in the areas of previous horse-related injury, lessons, experience vs knowledge, epilepsy, drowning, gender, deaths, safety helmets, stirrups, and body protectors.

No horse is a safe horse; some are safer than others but the horse is a potentially lethal animal. Prevention of accidents and injuries is dependent upon using knowledge previously obtained from studying horse activities. Much more information is available than in the past through the medical studies that have been done and the recommendations made by these investigators. The medical community has a responsibility to educate the horse riding public and to participate in investigations requested by the horse organizations.

The foremost requirement for riders is that secured certified protective headgear secured by a chin strap or harness be worn by all riders at all times when mounted.

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Bixby-Hammett, D., Brooks, W.H. Common Injuries in Horseback Riding. Sports Medicine 9, 36–47 (1990). https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-199009010-00004

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Keywords

  • Head Injury
  • Soft Tissue Injury
  • Body Protector
  • Related Accident
  • Residual Impairment