Traumatic Brain Injury in Equestrian Sport – Dr Chambless (2nd Helmet Safety Symposium)

Dr Chambless is a Neurosurgeon at Vanderbilt University and also an Event Rider. The most important thing we took away from Dr. Chambless’ discussion on types, diagnosis, and treatment of TBI is that you should never mess around with a potential head injury.

Dr Chambless shared some pretty sobering statistics:

  • A motorcyclist can expect one serious accident for every 5,000 hours of riding. An equestrian? One serious accident in just 350 hours of riding.
  • On average there are 8 TBI deaths a year in contact sports like football. There are approximately 60 equestrian deaths each year.
  • Of all TBI’s incurred during recreational sports, horseback riding accidents make up 12% – the largest group.
  • Most riding TBI’s happen at home – not at shows – where regulations have no effect

TBI’s are costly to rehab, the direct costs of a severe brain injury range from $1.5-3 million. Many people never make a full recovery. Prevention is key.

See below for Dr Chambless’ video presentation from the 2nd Riders4Helmets Helmet Safety Symposium and please always wear a helmet when you ride. (Read an overview report of the helmet safety symposium by Jackie Baker at this link).

Photo copyright: Riders4Helmets

Photo copyright: Riders4Helmets


  1. I believe we need more Dr’s like her. She shed much light on head injuries, my son and husband actually understood what she was talking about. My hat it off to this Dr. I encourage anyone to watch this video, provide much education. Education to head injuries especially the aftermath………… many Dr’s are not clear about the after math. But this Dr definately does……..and it is really appreciated.

  2. Kassandra says:

    Absolutely agree with the use of Helmets in any horse related activity. I have had a traumatic head injury while riding my horse that left me out of work for a week with impaired memory and balance issues. If I had not been wearing a helmet I most likely would not be here today. It’s been 2 years since the accident but took 18 months for me to get back to emotional and phyisical normality. Kudos! Please wear your helmet folks!

  3. The beautiful Fall afternoon of my head injury was on just the sort of day when I would have loved to feel the wind in my hair. Thankfully, I had on a helmet. Even so, when my horse left me lying unconscious in the field, I was lucky to be alive. For the first week after the accident I could barely see. When my vision improved enough that I could move about, I could barely walk without grabbing the walls for support. For the first month I needed a cane. Now almost 3 years later I still have trouble with balance. I continue to ride with a helmet, and I believe that a helmet is what kept me alive.

  4. Debbie Taylor says:

    I enjoyed your speech. I have TBI since January this year caused by a fall with my horse in an Eventing Clinic in South Africa. I had full protection on but my horse connected me on my right cheek and eye. I can’t remember anything so do not feel fear about it. I have diffuse axonal injury and am battling with balance, sight and right handed coordination issues. I have been on a horse, but only cos I was expected to be there and now that I am in the UK have been told not to ride until I have seen a neurologist. Not to worry as I don’t know if I even like them anymore!. I can only say I do believe in riding hats and would not instruct anybody without one. Unfortunately they are not always the answer though.

  5. Help? I am the State Advisor of the Iowa FFA Association (Future Farmers of America). This last fall I showed facts about head-injuries related to horse riding and strongly encouraged the FFA Horse Show Committee at the Iowa State Fair to consider requiring FFA members to wear equestrian head protection,. After an hour of serious discussion from me, the group (horse owners and riders) decided the risk was too trivial to discuss.

    How can I provide them with comments and/or facts they can NOT ignore?

  6. A little more clarification to my March 8, 2014 9:44 pm post.

    4-H has required exhibitors at the Iowa State Fair to wear certified Equestrian Head Protection all the time, all classes, and every time they are on a horse at the state fair.

    FFA has required exhibitors to wear helmets during the speed events (i.e., barrels), but the rest of the classes such as Western Pleasure they do NOT. In general, these horse owning parents and teachers think it is a waste of everyone’s time and money to require exhibitors to wear head protection in all classes.

    I am a survivor of a Traumatic Brain Injury (deer-motorcycle). Though I am back at work and considered very-high-functioning, I am very passionate about preventing others to experience what I have experienced and do experience every day.

    Please help me with some advice/strategies to change their thinking.

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