Howdy - first time posting, but I figured this was the right place to come for advice.
I'm 48 and started riding about 6 years ago. The short version is that I've had three concussions in the past three years. All three times, a horse spooked and I couldn't stay in the tack. Once was fairly serious - the head hit a fence rail - and I had a CAT scan, which was fine, but the doctor basically said if I ever got another, I had to stop riding.
I don't want to quit riding; I also know that these accidents have made me rather timid in the saddle, and my default is to roll myself into a ball when the s*it hits the fan, instead of sitting back and riding it out.
Well, there won't be riding police coming to pull you off a horse if you continue riding after a 4th concussion. You can ride all you want. Your doc is just giving you his best advice, which is that concussions are cumulative, yours seem to be happening with riding, and that to avoid more concussions that can lead to long term brain damage he'd recommend not engaging in the concussion-causing activity.
There's no magical cut-off point where one more concussion is ok, but the next one will be disastrous. No one knows. All we know if the more concussions, the worse the outcome, so they should be avoided. Especially if you're showing any long term symptoms now from the concussions you already had.
As for riding advice, make sure you ride in a non-previously-involved-in-accident helmet (buy your own, don't buy used, don't continue using the one you had a fall in), and make sure you ride a horse that's safe (as safe as a prey animal can be). When you say spooked do you mean a few running steps or sideways steps that could be sat through easily by a non-beginner, or did it bolt? Don't ride bolting horses, your brain and life isn't worth it.
Thanks - I've got a good helmet (and will go buy a new one tomorrow!) - and I guess bolting would be more like it - I can handle a few steps one way or the other - it's the taking off at a canter or faster that gets me...
Rolling up into a ball shifts your weight forward, and you are going to come off. Find someone nearby who gives lunge lessons, and take as many as you need. If you're determined to keep riding, you'll need to reset your default position.
If you have time martial arts like judo, that incorporate mat work and teach rolling and falling are very good, first for strength and balance in motion and second to teach you to roll up when you hit the ground, not on the horse before you fall.
I had a lot of concussions as a kid, more than three that's for sure, and there are some things now that make me wonder if I have long term effects. Do whatever you can to avoid future head injuries please, I can't recommend becoming dyslexic or add or whatever as you age.
OP, so sorry you have gone through this. Concussions are no fun and I love how you are helmet health conscious! From a physician perspective, they caution riders with repeated concussions about not riding again. What you do with that recommendation is up to you. Are there consequences to multiple concussions? Sure. Think NFL players. If you have that many, sidelines are good
me too - so sorry you have gone through this - I had multiple concussions as a teen - including a hair line fracture of the base of my skull ...the biggies: once a horse tripped in a field and I hit my head on a rock as we went down together, once I came off head first into a metal pole, once I got hung up in a stirrup while mounting and got dragged across 12 trotting poles with my head cracking each once (I have absolutely no memory of that one - thank heavens)
learning to ride as a kid was better in one way for sure - our old school Hungarian instructor would scream at us - "Fall off"and no matter what we were doing the expectation was a fast fast dismount. If you chose to not leap instantly he'd jangle his keys and the schoolies would take off ... wasn't much fun at first but sure let us figure out how to fall
Please find yourself safe horses to ride with an instructor who values your safety too - and get a new helmet
I am just one person. I cannot do everything. But I can make a difference. And I can have fun doing so!
Just after my 40th birthday, I took a fall off a horse that was a combination of slightly naughty horse behaviour and a series of really bad events that landed me right on my head and cracked my helmet up. (I have no memory of the fall, but my husband was riding directly behind me still has nightmares of the event.)
That was 2.5 years ago and in that time I've been in outpatient rehab a couple times a week, to correct my gait, I've had a neuropsych assessment in which they test your cognitive abilities and my ability to remember simple things is mostly non existent, I've had constant head pain for 2.5 years, fatigue that causes me to sleep 14-18 hours a day as well as a whole slew of more minor symptoms that I won't even get into.
I would never suggest to you to not ride again... *I* want to ride again even though my rehab team is dead set against it. But definitely do everything you can to minimize the risk of falling.
While I'm absolutely a big advocate of wearing a helmet... mine absolutely saved my life or at least saved me from smashing my skull... please remember that helmets do not prevent concussions.
They minimize more serious injuries like fractures, but concussive injuries come from within the skull, from the brain sloshing around inside your head and rubbing your soft, mushy brain against the rough, boney structure on the inside of your skull.
So while helmets are super important to keep you alive and you should absolutely wear one and make sure it fits and is replaced after a fall... you need to also make sure you are minimizing the risk of falling in the first place.
Quieter horses with solid training... quieter environments... improve your seat and position in a controlled environment (i like the suggestion above about taking lessons on the lunge line) ... be smarter about your riding and a bit more careful.
Think back about the times you fell off... what were the circumstances that caused the horses to spook? Is there some common theme? Is there something you could be changing?
Before this happened to me, I would not have said I had previous concussions. I was never taken to the ER after a fall or anything. But in hindsight, I had had previous falls that had resulted in headaches and dizziness that lasted a few weeks. It was never something that was taken very seriously and I grew up always being told "you fall off, you get right back on that horse".
This last fall... its been life changing and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. So be careful.
When I was 22, I took a head-first fall off a horse while riding cross country at a recognized horse trial. It resulted in a brain injury that bordered on the region between mild and moderate (depending on the diagnostic criteria you choose to use). It was my seventh measurable concussion, in addition to innumerable sub-concussive hits that sustained throughout my rough-and-tumble childhood and riding career.
I am now 26. In the past four years, I have gone through countless therapy sessions (speech, physical, occupational, music, hippotherapy, you name it, I did it) and doctors' visits. I have reached my "plateau" of recovery - I am only about 75% of where I was before the accident, but this is as good as it's going to get. I have significant memory issues, problems with language, cognition, processing speed, problem solving, visuospatial processing, hemiparesis, self-expression, recognizing emotions in others, empathy...I could go on and on and on. Today, I live with fair degree of certainty that I will at some point develop the symptoms of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (the same disease that has caused many former NFL players to take their own lives) or Alzheimer's. Like the previous poster, that one fall changed my life.
The past four years have also been devastating to my riding career. Before my accident, I was working toward my B rating in Pony Club, riding three to four horses per day, and in the process of applying to vet school. That all changed with the fall. I have spent the majority of the last four years out of the saddle - the first two years was due to the direct effects of the accident. The second two years was due to our entire disposable income as newlyweds (I was married two years ago to the most amazing man who understands all my problems) going toward ongoing medical expenses. In fact, it is only within the last four weeks that I have begun seriously riding again and working toward my old ideal. Virtually every symptom of my brain injury has an effect on my ability to ride.
BUT.....I still ride. I still jump. Heck, I even jump cross country. Why? Because during the last four years of my life, there has been a giant void in my life that I just could not fill. The happiness and completeness that I have felt over the last four weeks can only be compared to my first weeks as a starry-eyed June bride. I'm much more cautious now than I was as a single 22-year-old. I know that my husband would be TICKED if I ever fell off again (he was quite perturbed last week when a mare kicked me and cracked my iliac crest and bruised my kidney), so I am definitely more careful, not just for my sake but for his as well. We are also trying to conceive right now, so that also urges me to use more caution.
Can anyone tell you to stop riding? No. Like a previous poster said, there is no Concussion Gestapo going around and pulling people off their horses after some magical number of concussions. I had a lot of doctors try to tell me the same thing they told you. They used every scare tactic in the book, but I always knew that eventually I would have to come back to it. That being said, it is a VERY personal decision that has to be made. You have to weigh the cost and benefits, or in this case, the potential costs and benefits. I know that one more even not-so-bad fall could leave me a vegetable, and my husband a potential single father. But on the other hand, I've seen what it's like to go four years without riding, without horse hair and arena sand running through my veins. It's not fun. It's downright depressing. It makes me feel like a huge part of my life, my soul, is missing. So for me, the cost of NOT riding and jumping is much greater than the actual and potential cost of not riding and jumping.
So, my advice is to make that decision for yourself, then move on with your life and don't look back. Always be ready to justify your decisions to others (because they will question you), but don't ever look back or second-guess yourself. You know what's right for you and your life.
It sounds like you are doing everything right - always wear your helmet, but do be aware that, as the previous poster said, they will not prevent concussions. They will just prevent you from becoming a vegetable. Ride horses that are well within your comfort level and invest in some solid training. The cost of 4 or 5 lessons is about the same as a good-quality helmet and could do just as much to prevent a catastrophe.
Sorry for the novel; this is obviously something about which I have quite strong feelings.
"The FEI is often in error, but never in doubt." - Jim Wofford
"You do not find the happy life. You make it." - Camilla Eyring Kimball
Had my first concussion last winter (slipped on the ice on the way to feed the ponies) and it wasn't very nice.
Having written a book on concussions ("The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic"), I immediately recognized the symptoms - and also knew that rest (both physical and cognitive) was the most important treatment.
While no one knows for sure yet, the thinking is that the long term fallout from concussions can be minimized if they are treated properly.
In my case, that meant any time I had a return of symptoms, such as headache, when doing work (which, since I'm a reporter, can involve a lot of brain strain) or some kind of physical activity, I backed off. It took a good two plus weeks before I was back to "normal."
There are plenty of people who have experienced multiple concussions who managed to keep on trucking. And then there are those who seem to be sent for a loop with just one.
Best way to deal with them is to manage them properly.
Giantpony's description of her concussion would give me pause to ever get back on a horse. Goodness, so glad you are relatively ok. I have cared for 2 other riders that had these symptoms resulting from a fall. Both were told riding days were over. One is 21 and got back on, the other was 47 and did not.
I had a mild TBI six years ago when a horse either spooked or slipped on footing - at the walk. I was "totally functioning" to individuals who did not know me intimately - but I cannot remember the big events that occurred five months after the injury.
One year later I was involved in a very minor car accident - and only hit myself in the forehead with my own arm.
For the first few years after the concussions I rode as much as I could. However, since then I have scaled back because I came to the realization that getting another concussion could have massive consequences *for individuals other than myself.*
We know - with scientific backing - that the side-effects of concussions are both cumulative and long-lasting. As someone else said - you only get one brain.
That one ride - no matter how awe-inspiring/amazing/inspiration/perfect- was not worth my mother/spouse/etc having to switch to the role of an involuntary caregiver - permanently.
I still get my horse fix - by working with a local rescue, teaching riding lessons, instructing unmounted lessons for Pony Club, and volunteering at shows: but my days of serious riding are over - and I'm under 35. Is it upsetting? Absolutely - but I cannot think of another area in life where there isn't some type of limitation - either financially, calorically , time-wise, etc.
Some of my family certainly has reservations about me ever even looking at a horse ever again. My father, who has always been anti horse even before my injury, would rather cut off his own leg, than ever see me near another horse again.
My husband, though, who still has nightmares about watching me fall and hearing my helmet crack and sitting with me in the ER answering me while I asked the same questions over and over understands and supports the idea that I want to ride again. He worries about me, of course, but understands that horses have always been a bit part of who I am and my happiness.
That said, I've not so much as touched or been within 500 ft of a horse in 2.5 years. Partly due to lack of opportunity but I know that my husband also worries that since my rehab team hasn't cleared me to ride, he's concerned that if I have even the remotest opportunity, my judgement may be impaired enough that I might do it even without my doctor's blessing. Given I now have some issues with impulsiveness, he may not be wrong.
I do sometimes wonder with all the changes since my injury if my passion still exists or if its something I'm still just holding onto because its just part of the old me. So I'd like the opportunity to just try once or twice, just to see... but its a slippery slope.
With all that's changed and I've had to give up because of my injury, I'm in no rush to call it quits on the idea of ever riding again. I'm still holding onto that for now.
You don't say whether or not it was the same spooky horse that got you off all three times, but if it is, get yourself a different horse if you want to keep riding.
There are different types of spooks; the ones you describe might not unseat a talented rider, but they are too much for the average ammy. I had one whose spook was a sideways leap, and he unseated me many times. If I knew then what I know now, I would have given him away the first week I had him. I thought spooking was a matter of training, and to a certain extent, it is, but all horses will spook at something. Some are just more sensitive, some do it as an evasion, but HOW a horse spooks is the difference between landing on your head or staying secure in the saddle.
I have the best luck with the stop-and-plant variety of spook. That I can handle because it's a matter of just encouraging the horse to go past the scary thing or keeping your leg on.
Bottom line is there are horses who don't spook hard. You can get your confidence back if you find yourself one of those. It doesn't mean you'll never fall off, but it's possible to get confident enough not to curl up in a ball, which will lessen your chances of falling.
Vegas Sky, your story reminds me of the anti-smoking PSA where the woman had survived throat cancer and smoked through her tracheotomy hole. It certainly gives one pause.
Last edited by Bristol Bay; Aug. 5, 2014 at 11:08 AM.
Reason: The o key is too close to the i key
A helmet saved my life.
2014 goal: learn to ride like TheHorseProblem, er, a barn rat!
I think you need to minimize the risks of having multiple concussions - and that could mean finding a safer, read less spooky, horse to ride.
I would reiterate, though, that there are plenty of pro football players who seem to have survived numerous concussions without obvious long term effects. (Of course there are plenty who have been diagnosed with CTE on autopsy).
Most important factor is getting good medical treatment and rest until all symptoms are gone. If you don't rest you could be setting yourself up for a worse outcome since some of the worst scenarios have occured when someone has a second concussion before the first has healed. In kids these second impacts can end up in death (second impact syndrome is what it is called).