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For Release: Jan. 5, 2010 
Contact: Pamela Williams 
Office of Communications 
(405) 271-5601

New Rodeo Medicine Referral System Benefits Rodeo Athletes

The sport of rodeo is about to undergo its own version of healthcare reform. Beginning this month, rodeo athletes will have the ability to access medical providers across the United States and Canada through the Rodeo Medicine Referral System, sponsored by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

Rodeo is an individual sport, unlike any other in the world. Rodeo athletes are required to enter themselves in events and travel to competitions throughout North America. Many cowboys and cowgirls have rigorous competition schedules requiring travel to multiple cities, hundreds of miles apart, in short periods of time. The very physical nature of the sport ensures that many rodeo athletes will likely be injured at some point in their careers.

"This program will establish a network of healthcare providers across the United States and Canada who have a genuine interest in treating rodeo cowboys and cowgirls. In addition, the providers will assist these athletes in getting appropriate, definitive care when they get back home," says Mark Brandenburg, M.D., Tulsa emergency physician and medical director of the Rodeo Medicine Referral System.

Many of the acute and chronic injuries commonly suffered by rodeo athletes are also unique to this sport.  The problem is that injured professional rodeo athletes who cannot compete are unable to earn a livelihood. For many rodeo athletes, going months without an income is not a feasible option, so they compete anyway and often worsen their existing injuries. Another major barrier the injured rodeo athlete faces to obtaining adequate medical care is the sheer distance they are from home, usually hundreds of miles.

"It is our hope that our Web site will ensure appropriate and timely connections with a health care professional when the athlete is on the road and when they return home," says Elise Hiza, a University of Colorado medical student and program coordinator of the Rodeo Medicine Referral System.

Currently in the United States, the Justin Sports Medicine Team provides excellent, mobile health care coverage for many of the nation's biggest professional rodeo events. However, many cowboys who are injured at those events leave the following day to compete in smaller rodeos that do not have medical coverage.

The new system will allow injured athletes, family members and healthcare providers to search for an associated medical provider near the city of their next destination, and contact and see a provider, often on short notice. The system will also allow healthcare providers to locate a specialist in a particular region of the country to whom an injured rodeo athlete can be referred for definitive medical or surgical care. 

“There will be an ongoing need for new participants in this referral system and we encourage interested health care providers to join us in serving these athletes,” commented Dr. Brandenburg.  There is a registration form on the Web site for providers to use. The Rodeo Medicine Referral System can be accessed by visiting the OSDH Injury Prevention Service Web page at:  http://rodeomedicine.health.ok.gov.    

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