Injured bareback riders plan return at Wrangler National Finals Rodeo | TSLN.com
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Injured bareback riders plan return at Wrangler National Finals Rodeo

Bareback riders probably take the worst pounding of any rodeo competitors. The event requires an extraordinary amount of strength and stamina to conquer the power and speed of today’s bareback horses.

Like any physically demanding sport, bareback riding can take a tremendous toll on a competitor’s body.

So it’s not surprising that three of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s premier bareback riders suffered late-season injuries. It is unusual for them to plan to be back in the field when the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) launches its 10-day run in Las Vegas on Dec. 1.



Defending world champion Bobby Mote, from Culver, OR, regular season bareback riding earnings record holder Clint Cannon, from Waller, TX, and three-time NFR-qualifier Tilden Hooper, from Carthage, TX, are all on the mend but plan to be in Las Vegas when rodeo’s world championship begins.

Mote is recovering from an accident at the San Juan Capistrano (CA) rodeo where he was slammed against the chutes, breaking his ribs and lacerating his pancreas. He had surgery on Aug. 28 to repair his pancreas.



Cannon underwent successful surgery to repair a torn adductor muscle on Sept. 8, and has been in recovery process since. His injury was sustained at the Caldwell (ID) Night Rodeo in August.

Hooper, who spent the better part of the summer battling with Kaycee Field and three-time world champion Will Lowe for the bareback standings leadership, has been out of action since the Cheyenne (WY) Frontier Days in late July, and is undergoing physical therapy three times a week after learning he had two herniated discs in his neck.

Mote was hospitalized for five days after the surgery. Dr. Tandy Freeman of the Justin SportsMedicine Team was just a phone call away to advise and consult. Because Freeman knew Mote was in great physical condition before the surgery and would be dedicated to getting in shape afterwards, he didn’t think there would be any problem in getting ready for rodeo’s most grueling event.

“I didn’t do anything for quite a while after the surgery,” he said. “But, now I’ve been doing some rehab, working on gaining my strength back. I feel real good, and I’m ready to go.”

The four-time world champion bareback rider thought he could still compete and ride through the pain not knowing how serious it was. Just days after being injured, he was entered in the North Idaho Fair and Rodeo in Coeur d’Alene.

But, on his flight there, he was in such pain that his traveling partners Ryan Gray and Jason Havens convinced him to seek immediate medical attention. “I have to give those guys a lot of credit,” Mote said. “They (Gray and Havens) stayed with me until they got me settled in at the hospital.”

He went to the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle where he was diagnosed and underwent surgery. Mote, aiming to tie Joe Alexander and Bruce Ford with a record fifth gold buckle, had been on a roll right before his injury, winning six bareback riding titles in August. He will enter the NFR standing in ninth place in the world standings.

Regardless, he still believes he has a good shot at the championship with all of the money available at the NFR. “If I get on a good roll like I have in the past, I think I have a good chance,” he said.

Cannon, who was the reserve world champion in 2009, made quick progress from his surgery, being able to walk up to a mile per day just one day after the procedure. He started to jog three weeks after that, and has been in continuous rehab mode since then.

“I feel like I’m 100 percent now,” Cannon said. “I feel better than I have in a long time.”

Since he was hurt on Aug. 20, he has lost 11 spots in the standings, entering his third consecutive NFR in 14th place.

“I’d like to say I feel comfortable with my place in the standings, but there are a lot of great riders out there and you never know what is going to happen,” he said. “Just getting there was a big hurdle. When you are competing at least you feel like you have some control of what happens. When you’re hurt, getting to Vegas depends on what everybody else does.”

Cannon said he will have to refocus his attention and aim for a goal, which in his case is the world championship. “In order to be focused, you have to have a reason for what you want to accomplish,” he said. “If you don’t have that, it won’t do you any good.”

The injury narrowed his rodeo schedule for the year and likely kept him from entering the NFR in a higher position. “I only went to about 60,” he said. “I usually go to around 100.”

Hooper, who is from Carthage, TX, said he thought he had to have neck surgery because he has been plagued with neck problems most of his four-year professional career.

“A neck specialist told me the surgery he’d have to do at this point wouldn’t allow me to ride again,” he said. “So, I’m taking the time off to rehab and take better care of it. I’m in better shape physically than I have ever been.”

Hooper’s pain started in the short round at the Reno (NV) Rodeo in late June. “I went through the whole Fourth of July run, because you just can’t take time off then,” he said. “It seemed to be getting better, but then my free arm would go numb. I went to Salinas (CA) and Ogden (UT), but by the time I got to Cheyenne, I just didn’t have any strength in my free arm. I couldn’t do much with it.”

After Cheyenne, he tried to rehab at home, and make an appointment with a doctor. When that didn’t happen, he tried to give riding another shot, going to Lovington, NM, the second week of August.

“My free arm felt good for four or five seconds, but then it just dropped down to where it had been,” he said. “So that’s when I went to see a neck specialist.”

Although he went seven consecutive weekends without a check, he will enter the NFR in sixth place, with a lot of confidence.

“I feel better now than I have in three years. I feel like I’m ready,” he said. “You got a chance winning the championship by coming into the NFR at any position with the large amount of money that is available out there. About all a guy can really ask for is a chance.”

The Justin SportsMedicine Team has been an integral part of each of these men’s comeback. Freeman referred Cannon to a doctor in Philadelphia for his surgery, and sent Hooper to the neck specialist. And, they were on hand at the rodeos where the injuries first took place.

“I don’t ever remember a contestant doing rehab and making their comeback at the National Finals like this and we have three this year,” said Rick Foster, program director for the Justin SportsMedicine Team. “Physically, they are going to be better than they have ever been because they have been doing rehab and haven’t been getting on bucking horses. But, it doesn’t matter how good of shape you are in, after three or four horses or bulls in a row at the Finals, you are going to be hurting.”

For more information on the Justin SportsMedicine Team visit http://www.justinsportsmedicine.com.

For more information and to follow these contestants progress at the Wrangler NFR visit http://www.prorodeo.com.


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