Monday, Apr. 15, 2024

Helmets Put The Odds In Your Favor

As a lifelong hunter/jumper rider and the daughter of a neurologist, I grew up wearing a helmet with a harness at a time when such headgear was the exception rather than the rule.
   
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As a lifelong hunter/jumper rider and the daughter of a neurologist, I grew up wearing a helmet with a harness at a time when such headgear was the exception rather than the rule.
   
Sometimes it bothered me to strap on my helmet when my friends weren’t wearing theirs, but I’d heard the devastating stories about head-injury cases my father had treated. Although many of these injuries were motorcycle accidents, according to my father there’s little difference in the horsepower—when asphalt or a horse’s hoof impacts the skull the resulting injuries are all too similar.

Just last week I received news that a girl I grew up riding with had suffered a severe head injury in a freak accident when the horse she was hacking suffered an apparent aneurysm. Thankfully, she was wearing a helmet, which probably saved her life. She’s out of her coma and is now in a Maryland rehabilitation hospital.

Her family is thrilled with each milestone she’s made over the past month, and they rejoice in their blog over such hurdles she overcomes as walking, talking and eating.

So, why am I relaying this story? Because for the past few months we’ve all been so focused on the accidents and deaths in eventing that I think it’s easy to forget how just one misstep can change our lives—in any discipline, on any ride, at any time. You don’t have to be galloping 500 mpm or jumping massive, solid fences to encounter a life-changing moment.
  
The same day I received this devastating news I was in the process of putting together the Dressage Issue. Unfortunately, over the years one of the most challenging aspects of this special issue is obtaining photographs that we feel comfortable publishing. So it was ironic that on this day I was sifting through photos searching for a dressage rider wearing any type of headgear. It turns out they’re not easy to find in a helmet, and they only wear a top hat while competing. In this safety conscious culture isn’t it about time that approved helmets were mandated for dressage riders?

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I’ve jumped thousands of fences in my life—in the ring, on the cross-country course and while foxhunting—and my most serious riding accident happened while at the walk. And, yes, it was a concussion that’s caused lifelong repercussions.

Safety and education go hand in hand. The more you know about the devastation a head injury can cause, the less likely you’ll be climbing aboard your horse without protection. According to the National Injury Prevention Foundation (www.thinkfirst.org) head injuries are associated with approximately 60 percent of all equestrian deaths, and only 20 percent of equestrians wear protective headgear every time they ride. The use of a properly fitted ASTM/SEI helmet is estimated to decrease death from head injury by 70 to 80 percent.

While a helmet won’t prevent all catastrophic head injuries, wearing oneis a choice you can make to improve your odds in the event of a serious accident. I don’t know about you, but when I’m betting with my life I prefer the odds in my favor.

Tricia Booker, Editor

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