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This Sport Is More Dangerous Than Football, According to New Study

The risk of hospital admission from horseback riding injuries is higher than racing, and skiing.

Ask anyone what the most dangerous sport is, and you'd probably hear football. Or auto racing. Or cliff diving. Pretty much anything but the correct answer: Horseback riding. That's the conclusion of a new study, which found that over a 10-year period, more than 45,000 Americans went to major trauma centers with injuries incurred from riding horses. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.

More Dangerous Than Football

"The risk of hospital admission from equestrian injuries is higher than football, motor vehicle racing, and skiing," wrote the authors of the study, which was recently published in BMJ

The researchers looked at data from the National Trauma Data Bank, the country's largest database of trauma-related medical information. They found that between 2007 to 2016, 45,671 patients visited a trauma center with injuries related to horseback riding.

What The Data Showed

About 25,000 cases were accompanied by detailed information; the researchers looked more closely at these. They found: 

  • About 88% of patients had injuries that required them to be admitted to the hospital—3.5 times the number associated with motorcycle riding. The average length of stay was 4.46 days. 
  • About one-third of injuries involved the chest, while nearly one-quarter involved the extremities, and another quarter the head and neck. 
  • About 28% of cases involved admittance to the ICU. The average length of stay was 3.96 days, and mean time on a ventilator was 5.08 days. 
  • 3.5% of patients were severely impaired by their accidents—88% were not—while 0.21% of patients died from their injuries.

"These data suggest that the dangers of equestrian activities have been severely underappreciated," the authors wrote.

The scientists found no difference in the injury rate between men and women, and that 50 to 59 was the age group most likely to be injured seriously enough to seek emergency attention.

What Should Be Done?

Woman riding a horse in countryside.

"Very few public health campaigns have focused on preventing injuries in riders using horses for leisure and work," wrote the researchers, who noted that 1 in 63 Americans ride horses. "Implementing the consistent use of personal protective equipment, such as helmets and vests, will provide added protection to all riders (working or leisure) while on horseback."  The scientists also urged doctors to examine horseback accident victims for head and neck injuries, as they are most likely to lead to death. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael
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