Serious injury risk higher for horse riding than for football, motor racing or skiing

Study finds chest to be most common site of injury, but head and neck injuries most lethal

The risk of injuries requiring admission to hospital is higher for horse riding than for other risky sporting activities including football, motor racing or skiing, a study has found.

Researchers in the study published on Thursday by the British Medical Journal's online research portal Trauma Surgery & Acute Care Open found that equestrian injuries are “severely underappreciated” and too often ignored as a public health issue.

A news release highlighting the study said that the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more than 30 million people participate in horse-riding activities each year in the US, but relatively little is known about how many people are injured.

Researchers plugged this gap by reviewing data from the US National Trauma Data Bank that detail injuries sustained by adults while riding between 2007 and 2016, the statement read.

About 25,000 patient cases were reviewed. Researchers found the average age of those injured was 47, with almost equal proportions of men and women.

The most common site of injuries recorded was the chest, at 37 per cent. Injuries to the arms and legs occurred in 26.5 per cent of cases while 23 per cent suffered head injuries.

Severe neurological damage was observed in 3.5 per cent of patients, and within this group, head and neck injuries were the most likely cause, occurring in 706 patients.

Some 320 people died of their injuries during the study period, with head and neck injuries the leading cause of death in three out of four cases.

Researchers concluded that: “Equestrian-related injuries are a frequently ignored public health issue.

“When taken together, these data suggest that the dangers of equestrian activities have been severely underappreciated. When controlled for hours of activity, horseback riding resulted in a higher proportion of hospital admission than other higher risk activities like skiing.”

Life-saving protective gear is not always worn, researchers said.

“Studies have shown that a large fraction of riders involved in equestrian injuries were not wearing helmets at the time of their accident. It stands to reason that raising awareness of the possible injuries and increasing preventive measures to protect against head injuries would significantly reduce mortality.”

Updated: October 14th 2021, 10:30 PM