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Injuries part of rodeo life

Folks like me who make a livin’ banging on keyboards and scribbling on note pads understand pain.

You ever had a paper cut? It ain’t easy bein’ a writer.

I reckon my work-related injuries won’t get much sympathy from rodeo cowboys.

In rodeo, it’s not if you get hurt but when you get hurt. And how many of those helpful Justin Sportsmedicine folks need to help you get to Doc Tandy Freeman in the treatment room.

I always get a kick out of animal rights people who fret over the well-being of rodeo  livestock. Heck, those lucky critters are enjoying their stay in the five-star Thomas & Mack Corral.

If any group of the NFR athletes needs protectin’ it’s the ones who walk upright.

Broken this and dislocated that rarely keep cowboys from ridin’, ropin’ and bulldoggin’.

For them, "cowboy up" is a way of life all year and especially during the National Finals Rodeo.

It’s that grit — true grit — that won the West and will keep NFR contestants competing despite soreness and pain that would send normal folk to an emergency room.

Take Bobby Mote. The Oregon cowboy hasn’t competed since August but is riding for his fifth bareback world championship.

Ol’ Bobby has held onto his riggin’ for dear life and points on so many rides that his handshake could crush a buckeye.

At a rodeo on Aug. 27 in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., Mote, 35, was aboard Flying 5 Rodeo’s Diaper Duty when the horse started buckin’ in the chute and smashed Bobby.

He was hurtin’ but, of course, rode and was scored for 76 points. After the rodeo he got sick on a plane ride to Seattle and passed out. Still didn’t want to go to the hospital. But he finally relented where docs determined he broke some ribs and had a lacerated pancreas.

Part of his pancreas was whittled out by sawbones the next day.

The man rode with a life-threatening injury. He’s healed up now and got back on a buckin’ horse last week for the first time since the wreck.

Of course, bull riding rings up the most injuries in the sport even if nearly all of them wear protective vests and helmets with face masks.

Injury stats from almost 2,000 professional rodeo events between 1981 and 2005 showed that half of all injuries occurred during bull riding. At least that’s what I read in a 2007 edition of Sports Medicine Reports that said 9 percent of bull ridin’ injuries are concussions.

That’s not too surprising.

Dang, even team roping has risks and not just saddle sores.

You might think the gentlemen in team roping are safe. Wrong.

Go ask Jake Barnes how he’s doin’ but don’t expect him to give you two thumbs up even if he’s having a great day. That’s because Barnes lost half his right thumb during the 2005 NFR.

It’s a fairly common injury for ropers who can get their thumb garroted if it gets caught between the rope and saddle horn after roping a steer and the slack disappears darn quick. Of course, Barnes finished the go-round but turned out after that.

"In any other rodeo, I’d have let my rope go," he told my buddy Jeff Wolf, who wrote about the unplanned amputation in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Barnes didn’t realize he had lost the thumb until he saw ligaments and muscle flying in front of him. That even turns ol’ Buck’s stomach.

Barnes and heelers Cesar de la Cruz and Kory Koontz are among those competing here with 9½ digits.

The only safe spot at a rodeo is on press row, unless you get whacked in the head by a dirt clod kicked up by a high-kickin’ horse.

I did scrape the bark off a knee and sprained an ankle several years ago after I tripped walking to the MGM Grand Garden for a rodeo. Even tore my pants.

But I thought about those all those rough-stock dudes I had seen get bucked, kicked and stepped on.

The thought didn’t last long about limping to the Justin Sportsmedicine team and getting my ankle taped and Band-Aid put on my knee.

Right, like I’m going to share space with cowboys getting treated for real rodeo injuries.

That would have been pretty embarassin’.


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