From concussions to broken ribs, rodeo doctors see it all when they work ringside at the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series.
For more than a decade, Steamboat has provided free medical care for the professional cowboys and cowgirls who enter the rodeos each summer. Two athletic trainers and a group of nine doctors from Yampa Valley Medical Center volunteer their time. One trainer and one doctor work at each rodeo.
Emergency room doctor Jeanne Fitz-simmons, who is leading the group this year, said almost all the doctors have some connection to the rodeo.
"It's in their past, they have a passion for it. It's an opportunity for them to bring their family and give back to the community," she said.
Along with Fitzsimmons, this year's volunteer doctors are Laila Powers, Mark Hermacinski, Ed Kimm, Bryan Bomberg, Michael Sisk, Dave Wilkinson, John Lupori and Lambert Orton.
The doctors come from a variety of fields: internal medicine, emergency medicine, orthopedics and plastic and reconstructive surgery.
"I think you have to enjoy it or have some experience with it in the past," Fitzsimmons said.
The sports medicine team of physician assistant Frani Jenkins and physical therapist Fred Manning is the backbone of the operation, Fitzsimmons said. The two are at every rodeo event, along with a Steamboat Springs ambulance crew.
According to professional rodeo statistics, almost 50 percent of major rodeo injuries happen to bull riders and almost 24 percent of all major injuries to bareback riders.
The most common rodeo injury is a concussion. Shoulder fractures or dislocations and chest or rib fractures also are common.
Minor injuries, such as sprains and strains, are commonplace during the rodeo. There usually are a few major injuries every season, Fitzsimmons said. Doctors are at every rodeo, just in case there is a major event.
"In the arena, you can't predict what the animal is going to do. It's possible for something significant to occur," she said.
Having doctors on hand for the rodeo can give peace of mind to those competing.
Cowboys have an aggressive schedule, traveling from rodeo to rodeo across the South and West for weeks at a time. And if they can't compete because they are injured, they lose out on the chance to win prize money from the rodeos that they would enter.
"They are reluctant to go the hospital. They have the cowboy-up (attitude). They tend to get right up and get right back on," Fitzsimmons said.
For doctors, it is a fine line between making sure the cowboys are taking the right precautions for their injuries and allowing them to continue competing.
"We don't want to miss something, but we also don't want to prevent them from being able to do what they are there to do," Fitzsimmons said.