Life On The Rodeo Road: The Doctor Says Football & Hockey Players Are Wusses

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Photo by Paul Knight
Name: Don Andrews
Hometown: Dallas
Event: Cowboy doctor

Andrews is working with doctors from NASA to use an accelerometer to measure the amount of G-force experienced by bareback and bull riders.

I got into rodeo after I came to Texas with the New York Islanders hockey team. I needed an orthopedic surgeon to look at our players and I had a friend who was the team physician with the Dallas Cowboys, so I asked him to see our hockey players. Then he asked me one summer to help him with a rodeo. That was my first experience, about 30 years ago.

Rodeo cowboys don't like doctors because if you don't play, you don't get paid, so they're highly motivated to play. A lot of times against medical judgment. Hockey players are tough, but nobody's tougher -- football or hockey -- they're not tougher than rodeo cowboys.

The worst injuries are the fatalities. The basics are contact-sport injuries, but instead of a 280-pound linebacker, we're talking about an 1,100-pound horse or 2,000-pound bull. If you watch, you'll see so many near-misses of getting stepped on the side of the head. I think we're lucky that we haven't had more, considering the risk and exposure. I'm not real sure why they do it, but they'll always do it.

G-forces on a bull rider compare to astronauts, fighter pilots and acrobat-type pilots, upside-down and back-loops and all that. I don't think we're going to see anything like the load to the head we see in rodeo. We've already measured a bareback rider at 64 g's. Most people can't handle 2, 3 or 4 g's. 

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