Dr. David Walden is a sports medicine physician in Colorado Springs, and when the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo comes to town, he serves as the on-scene physician.
With the rodeo being as dangerous as it is for riders, Walden has seen his fair share of injuries. Thursday, Walden did a Q&A with The Gazette's Mike Persak to share some of his experiences with the rodeo.
How long have you been doing this for the Pikes Peak rodeo?
I think I started in about 1997, so 20 years.
How did you get into the rodeo? Was it something you had always wanted to do?
No. It was just that one of my friends, who's also a doctor, was doing it and was starting to get a little older. So, they brought me in, and I just worked with him for a few years, and then when he, kind of, faded out, I took over. And I have some other doctors. Some of the younger guys have been helping me out a little bit the last few years.
Before then, were you familiar with the rodeo?
A little bit. I grew up in Colorado Springs, so I had been to the rodeo a few times. But I wasn't really familiar with the injuries or anything. I'm a sports medicine doctor, but this is a whole different breed of sports medicine and injuries compared to even football.
How long do you expect to keep working with the rodeo?
I still enjoy it. I had my first date with my wife here, and I've been coming ever since. And my kids come, my kids are here tonight, so we kind of make it a family affair.
Are there any consistent injuries from these cowboys that you see often?
You see a lot of shoulder injuries, like dislocated shoulders and separated shoulders, and that's because their arm is, in the roughstock events - bucking events, essentially - there's a lot of strain on your shoulder especially. We also get a lot of groin injuries, pulled muscles, things like that.
When one of the guys gets hurt, how often do you see someone who you can tell is hurt, but doesn't want to come to you?
Well this sport is known for the athletes being really tough, and most of them don't come to you for any minor stuff. But the trainers have been doing this even longer than I have, and they have a lot of experience. They can usually tell, plus, they know a lot of the guys. So, they can usually tell if they're really hurt. Most of the guys will try to get out of the arena, but sometimes you have to go in and get them.
I'm sure you've dealt with a ton of crazy ones, but is there any real crazy injury that sticks out in your mind as one that you don't see often or you hadn't seen before?
Well I wouldn't say it's anything that I've never seen before, but they're fairly dramatic. One of the things you're supposed to do when you respond to an injury is make sure the scene is safe. The scene here isn't safe frequently. So I have to judge whether or not it's safe to help the athletes. The clowns, the bullfighters, help get the animal away from the athlete, and then I try to get in there as quickly as possible.
So has there been a time when you were trying to help one of the guys, and you felt like you were in danger from one of the animals?
When I first started, I followed one of the trainers out, and I ran to the athlete. And I really didn't think through the fact that the crazy horse was still out there running at about 40 miles per hour, and he ran right past my face. It was just pure luck I didn't get hit. They all laughed. I think it would have been less funny if I had really gotten hit. But I learned my lesson there. Now I'm looking around on my way out.