Sports-related head injuries are increasingly gaining attention as researchers investigate long-term consequences of multiple concussions. Concerns about the neurodegenerative disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, has put a focus on contact sports such as football and soccer. However, a study released today by the journal Neurological Focus found that the sport that causes most traumatic brain injuries isn’t even a contact sport, it’s horseback riding. Looking at data from the National Trauma Databank between 2003 and 2012, the researchers found that equestrian sports contributed to the highest percentage of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) for adults.
In the database, 45.2 percent of TBI among adults were related to horseback riding, dwarfing the other causes. The second-leading cause of sports-related traumatic brain injury was falls or hits from contact sports like football and soccer, but that accounted for just 20.2 percent of TBIs. The researchers pointed out that while other sports get more attention for head injuries, those taking part in equestrian sports have been found again and again to be at high risk for dangerous head injuries.