During the past 2 decades, competitive bull riding has transitioned from just one of the events in a traditional rodeo to a stand-alone multimillion-dollar sporting event with an international following.1 With the rising popularity of the sport, the bulls involved have emerged as featured athletes with large followings on social media, and champion bulls can generate several hundred thousand dollars in prize money.
Bull riding is a timed and judged event in which a rider attempts to ride a bull out of a chute into an arena and remain atop the bull for 8 seconds. During the ride, a bull rider holds onto a bull rope, which encircles the heart girth of the bull directly behind the thoracic limbs and is weighted with a metal bell so that it will fall off the bull as soon the rider is bucked off or dismounts the animal. Additionally, a flank rope, or strap, is applied around the flank of the bull to facilitate bucking; it is designed for quick release and is removed immediately after the bull exits the arena. Bulls are usually allowed a walk-through of the arena prior to each event, similar to a pregame warm-up for human athletes, and many bulls are trained to stop bucking when a whistle blows after 8 seconds.2 A successful ride, or cover, is achieved when the rider remains atop the bull without any disqualifications for 8 seconds. Each ride is assessed by a panel of judges who award points in 5 categories (buck [how high the bull gets into the air], kick [extension of the bull's pelvic limbs at the peak of each jump], spin [extent of turning and revolutions made by the bull], intensity [the amount of effort the bull puts into the ride], and degree of difficulty [determined by the bucking characteristics of the bull as well as a combination of the other 4 categories]).3 Those criteria are scored individually by each judge, and the mean is calculated to determine the score for the bull.3 For each ride, the maximum mean score possible for a bull is 50 points. The rider is scored on a similar 50-point scale, and the bull and rider scores are summed together to determine the overall competitive score for the ride. Thus, the maximum possible score for any successful ride is 100 points.
Disorders and injuries associated with bull riding have been described for human athletes of various ages and experience, ranging from professional riders4–6 to high-school athletes7 in several geographic regions. The injuries sustained by bull riders are most commonly caused by direct kicks from or trampling by the bull during a ride.8 Disorders and injuries sustained by horses during rodeo events have also been described. In a study9 of horses used for team roping competitions, heading horses (horses ridden by the rider responsible for roping the horns or head of the steer) most commonly develop lameness in the right thoracic limb, whereas heeling horses (horses ridden by the rider responsible for roping the hind feet of the steer) most commonly develop bilateral lameness of the pelvic limbs. Results of another study10 indicate that horses used for barrel racing are more likely to develop thoracic limb disorders than pelvic limb disorders. Thus, it appears that, for both human and animal rodeo athletes, the types of injuries most commonly incurred are closely associated with type of activity in which the athlete is engaged.
To our knowledge, disorders and diseases of performance-age bucking bulls have not been described. The objective of the study reported here was to characterize the medical, horn and sinus, and musculoskeletal disorders and diseases of performance-age bucking bulls. We hypothesized that the frequency of musculoskeletal and horn and sinus disorders would differ for bucking bulls, compared with that for nonbucking bulls, whereas the frequency of various diseases would be similar between bucking and nonbucking bulls.
The authors thank Sophia Najera for technical assistance.
JMP Pro, SAS Institute Inc, Cary, NC.
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