November 15, 2021

Athletic Therapists are experts at injury assessment and rehabilitation, providing immediate care and reconditioning for all active individuals. It’s no wonder that we’re active on the professional rodeo and bull riding scene in Canada!

Founded in 1983, the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sport Medicine Team (CPRSMT) is a group of dedicated caregivers who are passionate about rodeo. They are a non-profit organization with a volunteer Board and over 50 members who cover more than 175 rodeo or bull riding performances per year at all levels! The team consists of Certified Athletic Therapists, registered massage therapists and chiropractors with a network of physicians, sport medicine physicians, dieticians, strength and conditioning specialists, mental health professionals and orthopedic surgeons who truly understand the sport.

To learn more about the role of Athletic Therapists within the CPRSMT, we spoke with Certified Athletic Therapist Jocelyn Fredine, who is the Athletic Therapy Coordinator, as well as the Communication and Education Chair of the CPRSMT. After completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology at Acadia University with the mentorship of Dr. Jim MacLeod, she moved to Mount Royal University to complete her Advanced Certificate in Athletic Therapy and was certified with the CATA in 2005. She became involved with the CPRSMT after being approached by a senior member of the team who asked if she would be interested in learning more about the rodeo world. From then on, she was hooked!

The team at Kinsella Bullarama, L to R: Jocelyn Fredine (CAT(C)), Amy-Lynn Reed (MT), Dr. Brandy Frenette (DC), Jill Bruder (CAT(C))
Photo courtesy of Terri Huxley, West of the Fourth Photography.

How is Athletic Therapy important for Rodeo athletes?

Life on the road for a rodeo athlete is exciting and full of adrenaline, but with those highs come the lows of injury that accompany this extreme sport. Like any other sport or intense activity, rodeo athletes can sustain significant injuries so the cowboys and cowgirls need to take care of their bodies to perform at the top of their ability and for the longevity of their careers.

As Athletic Therapists, educating our athletes is paramount! We are always teaching them how to prevent, care for, and manage their own injuries while they are on the road. At performances, helping athletes compete safely is a top priority. Athletic Therapists are on the sidelines to accurately assess injuries, refer injuries for further treatment as needed, and create personalized rehabilitation plans for each athlete.

What is unique to the role of Athletic Therapy at a Rodeo?

Athletic Therapists need to be on their toes and ready for any situation! Injuries don’t just happen in the arena during a ride, buck off, or dismount. Significant injuries occur in the chutes, back pens, and even with the personnel handling the stock, so you must always think outside the box as you continually see injuries you didn’t think were possible.

The forces these athletes undergo during competitions are like no other sport and it really stretches your brain!

What are Athletic Therapists responsible for at the Rodeo or bull riding event?

At each event, the team will consist of two Athletic Therapists, 1 Massage Therapist and 1 Chiropractor, all working together to best serve our athletes. We arrive two hours early with a truck and mobile treatment trailer units to allow for adequate time to perform any new injury assessments, complete injury follow-ups and provide any stretching, manual therapies, taping or exercise prescription that are needed. We also work alongside on-site emergency medical services (EMS) to create the emergency action plan (EAP) and prepare for any emergencies which may occur during the event.

During the actual event, Athletic Therapists are the first to respond in the arena and work alongside the onsite EMS in the event of catastrophic injury. They set up at each gate to be close should an injury occur. They also constantly watch the in-arena action while keeping an eye on the athletes getting ready in the chutes or the trailer in case any need assistance before or after their ride. Scene safety takes on a whole new meaning, as you need to ensure the horse or bull has been safely removed from the arena before you head in to help the cowboy or cowgirl!

After the event has wrapped up, Athletic Therapists will continue to assess injuries from that day, providing injury care and rehabilitation plans, and coordinating with the team at the next event to ensure continuity of care for the athlete.

What are some common injuries you see during competitions?

Rodeo events are divided up into rough stock and timed events.

Rough stock events include:

  • Bareback riding
  • Saddle bronc riding
  • Bull riding
  • Steer riding.

Timed events include:

  • Tie-down roping
  • Team roping
  • Barrel racing
  • Breakaway roping
  • Steer wrestling

The types of injuries we see differ between rough stock and timed events. Some common rough stock injuries include concussion, groin strain, ligamentous knee injuries, wrist sprain, lacerations, shoulder dislocation, and fractures of all kinds! For timed events, common injuries include chronic rotator cuff injuries, ACL tears, ankle sprains, biceps rupture, pec rupture.

Photo courtesy of Terri Huxley, West of the Fourth Photography.

As Athletic Therapists are typically the first caregivers to assess an athlete when an injury occurs, they work in an interdisciplinary fashion with the massage therapists and chiropractors to create the best rehab/treatment plan for that athlete. It is usually a combination of exercise prescription, taping/bracing, manual therapies, and education. Further referral to our network of specialists is made on an as-needed basis.

When we asked Jocelyn about her favourite thing about the rodeo, she told us that she loved forging real connections with the athletes and helping them compete at their best while dealing with injuries regularly. She told us most of the athletes come from long lines of cowboys and cowgirls and have unique stories about how they got involved in the sport! In Jocelyn’s own words, “Rodeo athletes are like no other, and being part of the rodeo family is what keeps me coming back to this incredible sport.”

Did you enjoy learning about Athletic Therapists' role at the Rodeo? Stay up to date with Athletic Therapy by following us on Instagram and follow our new Facebook and LinkedIn pages as we continue to provide you with more exciting looks into the field of Athletic Therapy!