Prevalence of Concussion Symptoms in Equestrian Athletes, Is It Underreported?

By Anne Z Hoch; MD Piper Klemm, PhD; Aniko Szabo, PhD;

Background: While there is increased awareness of concussion in football and hockey, equestrian riding is also high risk sport for concussion.  There is more attention being placed on potential dangers of concussion and its consequences.

Methods:  Equestrian athletes (1833) were surveyed from the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF).  Frequencies, percentages, means, and standard deviations were produced in SAS version 9.4 (The SAS Institute, Cary, NC).

Results: The average age was 23.4 +/- 12.2 years. 98.3% of the athletes were female and 1.7% were male. On average, the athletes had been riding 15 +/- 11 years at time of the survey. 76.3% competed in Hunter, 62.2% competed in Jumper and 39.0% competed in both. The most common helmet to wear during practice and competition was the Charles Owen at 41.0% and 44.5% respectively. The five most common body areas to have been injured after falling off their horse were side of body (80.8%), buttocks (64.3%), head/neck (57.7%), back (11.3%) and knee/ankle/foot (7.7%). Of the athletes who hit their head or neck 73.4% returned to riding in less than 5 days. 71.6% had 1 or more symptoms of concussion, 31.1% had 5 or more symptoms of concussion and 12.5% had greater than 10 or more symptoms of concussion. Overall,  of the 1833 athletes, 71.6% had concussion symptoms. Of the athletes that had symptoms, 40.9% were officially diagnosed with concussion. After having onset of symptoms, the athletes were most commonly seen by an MD/DO (44.4%). If the athlete was diagnosed with a concussion, it was most often done by a family physician (23.1%).

Conclusion:  The data indicate that concussion symptoms are very common in equestrian athletes (71.6%) but only a minority of those with symptoms (40.9%) were officially diagnosed with a concussion.  We recommend greater awareness of concussion symptoms among the equestrian athletes

Key Words: concussion, equestrian sports

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, Issue: Volume 26(2), March 2016, p e22–e57