Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo – a Plastic Surgeon’s Perspective

Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo logo for 2024 It’s that time of year again.  Time for the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo! If you’ve never been, you really should go to the rodeo at least once.  Just seeing what the people sitting in box seats near the arena floor are wearing is worth the price of admission!  And the action in the arena…oh my!  You’d think the men and women doing these amazing things would be winning big piles of money.  But, nope!  It’s really a wonder that anyone would subject themselves to that punishment.  And make no mistake, being a rodeo cowboy or cowgirl means a lot of punishment.

An x-ray of hand bone fractures.

For a plastic surgeon who is on-call from the local emergency rooms, the rodeo means something else, too.  It means trauma.  Broken hands and fingers, broken facial bones.  Lacerations and, sometimes, even gorings.  People tend to think that plastic surgeons only do cosmetic surgery.  However, every plastic surgeon actually receives a lot of training in how to take care of major injuries and wounds.  Every plastic surgeon is trained in how to treat hand fractures and facial fractures.  Most plastic surgeons treat these types of injuries for years after completing their training.

A CT scan showing fractured facial bones
(A CT scan showing fractured cheek bones)

The cowboys, cowgirls, and even rodeo clowns know the risks.  Fall the wrong way, get your hand or head caught between a big animal and a rodeo gate or fence or arena floor, or have a rope yank on your finger, and you’re spending time in the hospital.  There’s a good chance that a plastic surgeon will be involved in your care.

Expressionist style image of a rodeo cowboy on a horse

George Strait really nailed it in his song, “Amarillo by Morning”.  If you’ve ever met a true rodeo cowboy, you know this verse rings true:

“They took my saddle in HoustonBroke my leg in Santa FeLost my wife and a girlfriendSomewhere along the way”

A cartoon-like image of a rodeo cowboy on a horse

And as for the prize money, well, just like in any sport, it’s only the very few who end up making real money.  In 2023, the winner of each event won about $20,000.  That sounds like a fair amount, but most participants in each event took home between $250 and $3,000.  Watch a bull riding event.  How many times would you ride a bull like that, just to ‘win’ $2,000?  And the riding you see in the arena is the main event.  What you don’t see is all the riding and training that went into winning that $2,000.  And the injuries and sprains and strains.  It’s remarkable.  And King George nailed it in this verse, too:

“I ain’t got a dimeBut what I’ve got is mineI ain’t richBut Lord, I’m free”

Take a look at this 30 second video about bull riding. What an event! But, it does raise a few questions:

I am in awe every time I go to the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.  The men, women, and even children who participate in the rodeo are just amazing.  Courageous, generally some of the most polite people you’ll ever encounter, and athletic.  And that’s just the rodeo.  If you have a chance, go by the Stock Show too.  It’s altogether different, but definitely worth the time.

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