Epidemiology and Prevention of Equestrian Sports Injuries in Portugal

Research Article

Austin Sports Med. 2022; 7(1): 1050.

Epidemiology and Prevention of Equestrian Sports Injuries in Portugal

Pinto LV*, Gouveia F, Silva SR, Ramalho J, Silva JR and Branco CA

Department of Physical and Medicine Rehabilitation, Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal

*Corresponding author: Pinto LV, Department of Physical and Medicine Rehabilitation, R. Dr. Cândido Pinho 5, 4520-211 Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal

Received: November 30, 2021; Accepted: January 27, 2022; Published: February 03, 2022


Horse riding has recently become popular, causing an increase in the number of related injuries. This study aimed to identify frequently occurring injuries in Portuguese riders and the conditions under which they occur to help identify preventive measures. Data were obtained from a questionnaire that characterized first and second rider injuries. In both cases, most injuries were musculoskeletal, occurred from falling off the horse during training, and mainly involved the lower limb. Approximately half of the patients required rehabilitation. The occurrence of injury was significantly associated with the number of days of training per week, years of experience, increased height and weight, and practicing another sport. Riding different horses was also significantly associated with the incidence of injury. Injury prevention is essential in horse riding, and rehabilitation should involve a physiatrist and core strengthening exercises.

Keywords: Horse riding; Injury; Prevention; Exercises; Equestrian sports; Physiatry


EM: Equestrian Modality; ER: Emergency Room; HR: Horse Riding; RF: Risk Factor


Equestrian sports have several positive physical health benefits, such as improvements in balance, motor function, and muscle strength, along with anxiety relief and enhanced self-esteem, thus improving mental health [1]. In these sports, two athletes, horse and rider, with different physical and mental qualities, work together to achieve success [2].

Horse riding (HR) has become popular, with injuries related to this sport increasing in prevalence [3]. It is considered a dangerous sport because the saddle is approximately 2m above the ground, and horses can weigh up to 500kg, reach a speed of 65km/h [4], deliver 1000 N of force in a single kick [5], and behave unpredictably [6]. Injuries can also occur during non-riding activities, such as grooming and stable work [7]. Regardless of developments in equestrian safety equipment, HR remains more dangerous than motorcycling, skiing and rugby [8], with a reported injury rate of 1/350-1000 h spent riding [9].

It is essential to understand the circumstances under which these injuries occur, so that preventive measures can be put in practice. This study aimed primarily to characterize HR-related injuries in Portuguese riders and to identify possible associated risk factors (RFs), and secondarily to use this information to recommend injury prevention strategies. To the best of our knowledge, no study has evaluated HR-related injuries in Portuguese riders.

Materials and Methods

This retrospective observational study included Portuguese riders practicing HR at the time of the study with ≥1 years of experience. The exclusion criterion was incorrect filling of the survey. A total of 216 riders participated in the study; none were excluded. The injury data of the riders were obtained from an online questionnaire made by the authors, which was shared in many Portuguese equestrian schools. It included questions regarding demographic data (age, sex, personal history of illness), sports-related background (equestrian modality (EM), other sports practiced), systematic training workload (years of experience, days of training per week), number and characteristics of the first two injuries (age, body location, type, mechanism, and location of injury), and the need for medical care (hospital attendance, surgery, and/or rehabilitation).

Data were collected in March-April 2021. We performed a descriptive analysis of the riders’ characteristics and injuries, considering absolute and relative frequencies for categorical variables, mean and standard deviation for normally distributed continuous variables, and median and range for non-normally distributed continuous variables.

We used chi-square or Fischer’s exact test for categorical variables, Student’s t-test for normally distributed continuous variables, and the Mann–Whitney U test for non-normally distributed continuous variables to find an association between various variables and riding injuries. The normality of continuous variables was assessed using the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test.

All statistical analyses were performed using IBM® SPSS® Statistics version 27; statistical significance was set at p<0.05.

Results and Discussion

Demographic and sport data for equestrian athletes

This study included 216 riders: 111 men (51.4%) and 105 women (48.6%). Characteristics of the group are listed in Table 1. In our sample, as some riders practiced >1 EM, the sum of riders practicing various EM exceeds 216.