No matter the skill level or the discipline, a head injury can happen to any rider. According to the University of Connecticut's Riding Helmet Safety Sheet, around 70,000 people per year are treated in the ER for horse-related accidents. Of these accidents, head trauma is the most likely cause of serious injury or death. And the majority of these accidents weren't related to high-risk riding sports like cross country jumping, although these do carry significant risk—the majority of horse-related traumatic head injuries occur during pleasure riding, where riders might be less likely to wear protective headgear due to the relaxed nature of their ride.
According to helmet manufacturer Troxel, there is "no statistical correlation between rider skill and accident likelihood." An accident is always possible due to the simple fact that a horse is a living, breathing, thinking creature separate from its rider. Even the most quiet and seasoned horse can act unpredictably, especially when uncontrollable environmental factors may be at play. A flock of birds startling from a bush or a car loudly revving its engine could startle any horse and put their rider at risk.
We're all aware of the most tragic outcomes of a head injury: death and disability. But even a concussion is considered a form of traumatic brain injury. Emergent research shows that multiple concussions sustained over a lifetime can lead to a degenerative brain disease known as CTE, manifesting later in life as cognitive impairment and, ultimately, dementia. Head injuries accumulate and can lead to long-term damage.
The simple act of wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of death or disability from a riding-related blow to the head by 80%. Not only does a helmet protect the outside of the head; a helmet cushions the brain itself from jarring against the inside of the skull.
When choosing a helmet, always ensure that helmets are properly fitted. This helpful guide from the CDC describes how to choose, fit, and safely store a riding helmet. Also be sure that helmets are ASTM/SEI certified, meaning they have been lab-tested for safety. You'll find this certification clearly marked on the box or in the information pamphlet inside the packaging.
Wearing a helmet every time you mount up is a smart move. Now is the perfect time to add a helmet to your arsenal of riding gear. This weekend, August 17-19, is International Helmet Awareness, presented by Riders4Helmets. Shoppers of authorized retailers will receive 20% off all helmet purchases. As an authorized retailer, Horseman's Supply is here to assist you in choosing and fitting a safe, stylish riding helmet for yourself or your family.