The Most Dangerous Sport in the World?


A Bull Tamer in Australian Rodeo Event. Photo: Amcilrick


“Sweetheart of the Rodeo”

I’ll confess I don’t know much about rodeo.  To the extent the word triggers a response in my mind, I think of Gram Parsons and the Byrds:  “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.” Click on the link and take a listen:  it’s a great album!

Back to sport….it’s my own cultural myopia that overlooks rodeo when I think of the word ‘sport.’ I didn’t grow up participating in it, and in central Ohio I have not attended to any rodeo injuries (equestrian, yes; bull riding, no). I imagine my situation would be different if I practiced in Wyoming or Alberta…..or parts of Mexico, Argentina, and Australia (rodeo is truly international).

As I grow older, I delight in learning more about other sports; my involvement with CJSM certainly has expanded my horizons. Last year, for instance, I wrote (and learned) about the ice sport of ringette after the journal published a study on the injury epidemiology of this largely Canadian activity. I had previously never heard of rignette. Shame on me.

I was reading the New Yorker earlier this week when I came across this tantalizing entry: “The Ride of Their Lives: Children Prepare for the World’s Most Dangerous Organized Sport.”  The focus of the article is a particular event in rodeo, bull riding, and the kids and families who participate in this sport….which is, indeed, very dangerous.   “It’s not if you’re gonna get hurt; it’s when,” one parent is quoted.  As a pediatric sports medicine physician, I was bound to be hooked.

I was delighted to see the New Yorker author use the work of Dale Butterwick as one of his chief sources for the article’s epidemiologic data. Mr. Butterwick is a faculty member of the University of Calgary, Alberta, and has written extensively on injury patterns in rodeo.  Among his more important works is the CJSM 2011 study, “Rodeo Catastrophic Injuries and Registry:  Initial Retrospective and Prospective Report,” which reported on 20 years of data collected by the only, international registry for catastrophic injury in rodeo, which he maintains. Read more of this post

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