You don’t have to be crazy to be a bull rider, but it sure does help.
It’s been named the most dangerous job in the world, and you won’t get any arguments from me. My father rode bulls long before he ever thought of having kids like me running around, and I’ve heard countless stories about the injuries he suffered in those days.
For bull riders, it’s not a matter of if, but when they will face the ultimate reality of being injured in their chosen profession. Unfortunately, it’s just part of the job, and when you consider the event usually means a 150-pound man climbing aboard a 2,000-pound vicious animal with the personality of a shark in blood-filled waters, it’s not surprising.
Bull riders have littered the Justin Sportsmedicine Team’s injury report so far this year at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which is nothing new from years past. A handful of them have had particularly brutal weeks, though.
Kanin Asay spent two days in a Las Vegas hospital before the 10-day rodeo even started, being discharged Wednesday and running a bull rope through his hand the following day. In Round 2, Lancaster & Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Wicked Game played a wicked trick on Asay, stepping hard on his rib cage.
Asay suffered a rib contusion, but was back at it in Round 3.
Round 1 was rough on Ardie Maier of Timber Lake, S.D., who suffered a freak injury to his riding hand. After being bucked off Bar T Rodeo’s Top Gun, Maier’s own spur caught his right hand, slicing a nearly two-inch gash in the meat of his thumb that required dozens of stitches to close.
As one could imagine, that is a less-than-ideal injury for a bull rider, and Maier was faced with a huge hurdle considering he had nine more rides to attempt. In true cowboy fashion, Maier was back on a bull in Round 2, ripping part of his suture open while being bucked off Robinson Pro Rodeo’s Tightrope.
The stitches held in Round 3, even though Maier didn’t make the eight-second whistle, and I caught up with him after he visited the Justin Sportsmedicine Room for treatment.
“That was a pretty wild deal just the way everything came into play,” said Maier, who is ninth in the PRCA world standings heading into Round 4. “Last night was pretty sore, and it’s getting better every day. Everybody gets bruised and beaten up in the bull riding, and it’s a mental game and you’ve just got to toughen up and deal with it.”
He actually said he felt the injury could have been worse.
“I’m just lucky it didn’t cut the tendon or the bone,” Maier said. “Shoot, I can’t be complaining too much, because I can still run my hand in there and have a shot. It definitely could have been worse.”
Covering his first bull of the week is more of a concern to the South Dakota bull rider.
“I don’t think it’s affecting my riding that much,” said Maier, who is competing in his second Wrangler NFR. “I just think that, if I stay on one, I’ll get some momentum. Once we get one twisted, it’ll pick right back up.”
Seth Glause showed up on the injury report after the second round when Classic Pro Rodeo’s Medicine Show struck him in the face with his horn following Glause’s 86.5-point ride. Glause needed some medicine after suffering a broken nose that required some stitches.
He visited a Las Vegas hospital Friday night for a CT scan to make sure there had not been any more severe damage to his nasal cavity or orbital bone and was back in action in Round 3, albeit with a new piece of equipment.
Glause, a four-time Wrangler NFR qualifier, was sporting a helmet on Saturday night. He had to adjust to the new headgear on two bulls, as his initial draw – Lancaster & Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Cowboy Coffee – stumbled coming out of the chute.
Glause was awarded a re-ride and took it, gritting his teeth again and riding Flying U Rodeo’s Curveball for 82 points and a fourth-place check worth $7,656. That will help ease the pain he’s still feeling.
“It was just one of those things, and it was kind of my fault,” Glause, who is fourth in the world standings, said. “I got lazy and was trying to get a good spot to get off, because I don’t like getting off away from my hand. My hand kind of hung in my rope coming off, and it just opened me up, and he slung his head and got me.”
The best way, Glause said, to deal with injuries mentally is to not allow the thoughts of possible catastrophe enter your head.
“You just try not to think about it,” he said. “If you start worrying about other things besides just riding, that’s when bad stuff happens. They always say the safest place is on top of them, so, if you’re doing your job and making sure you get off correctly, you’ll be fine.”
Glause isn’t sure if he will continue wearing a helmet in the future.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever worn a helmet in my life, and I was a little nervous on that first one,” he said. “I’m just taking it one day at a time, to be honest. I’m just going to try and get through this week without any more injuries.”
Clayton Savage had a savage injury at the hands of Wild Card Rodeo’s Fat Lip, suffering a “perineal contusion.” In layman’s terms, it’s a cut to his “pelvic floor,” which is about as bad as it sounds. Savage was listed as “questionable” on the injury report, and my heart goes out to him.
All ProRodeo cowboys are tough, and this year’s crop of bull riders has to be in the running for toughest of the tough. I certainly hope no others are struck down in the final seven rounds, but the realist in me knows that’s not possible.