January 10, 2009

Bull riders trade Stetsons for helmets

Many bull riders in the United States are trading their Stetson cowboy hats for helmets, sporting officials say.

The New York Times reported Saturday that while helmets are not mandatory at rodeo competitions, their use is growing faster than many experts predicted a few years ago.

The newspaper said that at a Baltimore rodeo last weekend, 23 of the 45 riders wore helmets, marking the first time that those with helmets outnumbered those without.

It is huge, said Don Andrews, executive director of the medical team that travels with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

The Times reported that one in 15 rides on the Professional Bull Riders' top tour ends with an injury.

Dr. Tandy Freeman, the tour's medical director, said 15 percent of the injuries are concussions. The most common surgical procedure is to repair facial fractures.

It makes sense to wear a helmet, Freeman said. But not everything these guys do makes sense.