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Athletic Therapists: Behind the scenes with the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sport Medicine Team

Athletic Therapists treat rodeo athletes as members of the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sport Medicine Team

Life on the road for a rodeo athlete is exciting and full of adrenaline, but with those highs come the lows of the inevitable injuries that accompany this extreme sport. Rodeo athletes who compete in events like bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling, team and tie down roping can sustain significant injuries throughout their career and the Athletic Therapists (ATs) of the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sport Medicine Team (CPRSMT) are the ones on hand to handle these emergencies.

The CPRSMT consists of over 50 practitioners in the disciplines of athletic therapy, chiropractic care and massage therapy that provide on-site attention to rodeo athletes. The team also includes a curated network of physicians, sport medicine physicians, dieticians, strength and conditioning specialists, mental health professionals and orthopaedic surgeons, providing post injury and general care to competitors.

Being an AT in the world of rodeo and bull riding isn’t always glamourous – your jeans are always dirty, you’ve got hat hair from your cowboy hat, and the athletes/injuries continually provide challenges that you never expected to see in real life. The athletes compete with a level of passion for their lifestyle and sport that is indescribable and are among the toughest competitors you’ll ever encounter. What may seem crazy to an outsider is simply a way of life for the cowboys and cowgirls, and the ATs of the CPRSMET are an integral part of a long, healthy career down the rodeo trail.

Athletic Therapists help athletes in their rodeo careers by:

  • Providing pre-event care and treatment. This includes but is not limited to:
    • stretching
    • manual therapy/active release
    • taping
    • guidance on injury rehabilitation and return to competition
  • Managing acute injury arena coverage, crisis control, and post-event care and follow up of injuries such as:
    • concussions, lacerations, bone fractures, joint dislocations to name only a few

We take pride in educating and supporting competitors to better care for themselves and their injuries, to ensure they get the most out of their lives and rodeo careers.

A day in the life of the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sport Medicine Team

A day in the life of a CPRSMT Athletic Therapist often starts early in the morning, hauling one of the team’s three truck and mobile treatment trailer units to the rodeo or bull riding event.  The team travels extensively throughout Canada, attending over 180 performances including Canadian Pro Rodeo Association rodeos, Professional Bull Riders events, and the Calgary Stampede Rodeo and Chuckwagons.

The team arrives two hours before the performance starts to allow for assessment and treatment time with the athletes. The ATs will assess any injuries that have taken place since the last event, follow up with existing injuries, take care of pre-event taping and bracing, and liaise with onsite Emergency Medical Staff (EMS) to plan for response to in-arena emergencies.

During the performance, you’ll see ATs respond first in the arena when an injury occurs (Rule #1 – Is the scene safe? We are talking 1,000lb animals here). ATs have to be very aware when injuries occur and sometimes they can happen not only during the events but in the chutes or back pens where the roughstock is getting loaded, transferred, set up, etc. In the event of a significant or catastrophic injury, ATs work alongside onsite EMS to stabilize the athlete and transport as needed. 

After the event has wrapped up, an ATs job doesn’t end. You’ll see the us continuing to assess new injuries from that day, provide injury care and rehabilitation plans, and coordinate with the team at the next event to ensure continuity of care for the athlete. ATs must rely on their strong relationships with the cowboys and cowgirls to help them make safe return to ride decisions.

Being an AT in the world of rodeo and bull riding has its challenges with travel, locations, and at times, the resources available, but we work hard at providing the best possible care for every rodeo athlete.  The comradery of the rodeo family is like no other and that makes the long days/weekends/weeks completely worth it. As the sport continues to grow, the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sport Medicine Team will adapt and grow with it to continually care for these tough, yet passionate athletes.

Jocelyn is the Athletic Therapy Coordinator as well as the Communication & Education Chair of the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sport Medicine Team (CPRSMT). LeeAnne Gullett has been working with rodeo athletes for the past five years and new to the CPRSMT team as of last year. Founded in 1983, the CPRSMT is a group of dedicated caregivers who are passionate about the sport of rodeo and the western way of life. They are celebrating their 37th year of service as a volunteer led organization. They have grown from four volunteers in 1983 to a team of over 50 caregivers today. For more information, check out www.prorodeosportmed.com or find them on social media.

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