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Riding the Circuit, but Not the Bulls

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, June 13, 2012
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This article appears in the June 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Tandy R. Freeman, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist with Dallas-based Texas Orthopedic Associates, has been around professional athletes for most of his career. For two decades Freeman has been riding the circuit across the country as medical director with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Professional Bull Riders, Inc., but he's never tried riding the bulls.

A small-town doc: The rodeo community itself is like a small town, and I am the small-town doc. I practice orthopedics with an emphasis on sports medicine, but that is not the only thing I get calls about. There are folks who are part of the community who will call and say, "I have an uncle with cancer or a friend with this or that problem and we need some direction." They know I don't do that sort of stuff but they are looking for me to provide some answers.

When man meets bull: Bulls weigh anywhere from 1,400 to 2,500 pounds. The average cowboy is about 155 pounds. In the time I have been doing this, we had one athlete who sustained a fatal injury with a Type 6 liver laceration, which means not only did he split his liver in two, he lacerated the inferior vena cava. I had two athletes sustain cervical spine injuries
with quadriplegia.

On cowboys and Darwin: Rodeo athletes as a group are the toughest athletes I've dealt with. They can go out and perform with injuries you would shake your head at. Some of it has to do with the financial aspect. It's a deal where if you don't compete, you don't eat. There is also a cultural aspect where you cowboy up and grit your teeth and do your job and not complain. There is a Darwinian aspect to it where only the strong survive.


This article appears in the June 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Reprint HLR0612-12


John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.