Horseback riding carries a higher injury rate per hour of exposure than downhill ski racing, football, hang-gliding and motorcycle racing.
US Medical Examiner reports show that 60% or more of horse-related deaths are caused by head injuries. Helmets can reduce this possibility by 70-80%.
Each year approximately 70,000 people are treated in emergency rooms because of equestrian related activities.
The American Medical Equestrian Association calculates that ASTM/SEI approved helmets have reduced all riding-related head injuries by 30% and severe head injuries by 50%.
Repeated trauma to the head, even when minimal, can cause cumulative damage to the brain. Each new accident expands the original damage and the brain cannot recover 100% from injury.
Riders under the age of 18 formerly had the highest head injury rate. Expanded use of ASTM/SEI helmets among this age group has shifted the highest head injury rate to those people ages 22-35.
Non-ASTM/SEI certified helmets offer no protection whatsoever and are strictly for cosmetic purposes.
Head injuries are responsible for more than 60% of horse-related deaths.
Head injuries are the most common reason for horse-related hospital admissions.
Signs, Symptoms, and Helmet Safety
Equestrian helmets are designed to protect a rider’s head in two ways. First they reduce penetration by sharp objects (the protective shell), and second absorb some of the force, giving the head a “cushion” thus increasing stopping distance (the foam padding). All models of ASTM/SEI approved equestrian helmets are tested in a lab to ensure that they are up to regulated safety standards. You can find the SEI certification symbol on each approved helmet.
Helmets intended for equestrian activities come in many sizes and although generally use the same protective foam, are built differently than other sporting helmets. They cover more area of a rider’s head and are designed for specifications of riding a horse, taking into account possible terrain, speeds and objects to which a rider could be subjected. They are built to skid rather than stick over rough terrain and to absorb impacts created by sharp objects such as a horse hoof or sharp rock. They are also designed to be secured properly to a rider’s head and be light enough to not interfere with a rider’s balance. Other sporting helmets such as a bicycle helmet or motorcycle helmet either don’t provide adequate head coverage, or they are too heavy and bulky to be used for riding.
Helmet Safety for Mental Health
After a landmark study investigating mental health in concussed riders, riding helmet manufacturer Charles Owen reveals staggering findings.
Concussions can occur while participating in any sport or recreational activity. Since the circumstances under which a concussion can be sustained are so varied, it’s important for all coaches, parents, and riders to be aware of the signs, symptoms, and what to do if a concussion occurs. MHC is committed to increasing education, awareness, and have established protocols to assist you in gaining the knowledge and skills required for the safety of equestrian athletes. Let's all work together to ensure a safe sport environment.
Concussion awareness and the implementation of appropriate concussion protocols are key elements in ensuring safety in equestrian sport. Sport Manitoba offers an overview of how concussions occur, the symptoms and signs to watch for.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a concussion as:
A type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, stretching and damaging the brain cells and creating chemical changes in the brain.
What to do if you suspect a concussion
In all suspected cases of concussion, the person should stop the activity right away. Continuing increases their risk of more severe, longer-lasting concussion symptoms, as well as increases their risk of other injury.
Anyone with a suspected concussion should be checked out by a medical doctor.
Neck pain or tenderness
Weakness or tingling in arms or legs
Severe or increasing headache
Seizure or convulsion
Loss of consciousness (knocked out)
Deteriorating conscious state
Vomiting more than once
Increasingly restless, agitated or combative
If any red flag symptoms are present, call an ambulance right away. These may be signs of a more serious injury.