Recently I read an article in www.thehorse.com, Injury Rehabilitation Underutilized by Equestrians, Researchers Say. Doctors at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, Alberta, reviewed the records of patients over 16 years of age that were admitted to the Level 1 trauma center from 1995 to 2005. Basically, they found that many equestrians are bad patients who do not follow doctors’ recommendations in terms of recovery.
Of the study respondents who underwent therapy, 46% underwent physical and 18% underwent occupational therapy. Victims most likely to undergo therapy were those who sustained severe injuries to an extremity (73% of those in therapy), had pelvic (80%) and spinal fractures (70%), and spinal cord trauma (100%).
Those who had sustained injuries from horseback riding (47% of the study population) prior to the current injuries were less likely to receive therapy.
“This is likely a result of riders sustaining previous injuries, perhaps not as severe, and recovering fully from them on their own,” Ball explained. “This reinforced to riders the belief they could recover at their own pace, on their own time. However, the types of injuries sustained in the riding population that we contacted included major trauma. With these more severe injuries, chronic physical difficulties are more likely to result, and would therefore benefit from therapy early on in the recovery process.
“Our respondents often commented that they had been riding for years, they had been thrown or stepped on before, and that they just got back on their horses again,” Ball said. “They often regarded injury as just part of the risk involved with being around horses, so they were less likely to ask for, or accept, help when it was offered.”
In reviewing the data, the researchers communicated that the equestrian–particularly the Western-riding–culture of self-reliance necessitates a change in tactics for individuals working with these patients. They found that an emphasis on the benefits of rehabilitation therapy while the patient was hospitalized brought results–25% of patients willingly sought out further assistance as outpatients.
I read this with some chagrin because I have to plead guilty. I am currently riding with a sprained ankle, injured when a friend’s horse kicked out at mine and hit my stirrup iron. It hurts after I ride. It particularly hurts after a long fox hunt. However, the spring season is so short that I have been riding through the pain figuring that it will heal over the summer.
I will also admit that two years ago after a horse charged through a stall door, breaking a rib and causing contusions to my liver, at my first check up with my doctor my first question was to ask how soon I could start hunting again. I did wait maybe three weeks. I just didn’t ask after the first negative response.
And yes, when I broke my hand I did ask the orthopedic surgeon if I could ride with my hand in the cast. As someone who had dealt with equestrians he shrugged his shoulders and said sure, that he had a past girlfriend who had ridden with her leg in a full cast.
Ironically, as horse owners we are much better at following our vets’ recommendations on rehabbing our horses than we are at taking care of ourselves.
Perhaps this is a strategy that I need to reconsider!