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  • Mauney's Helmet paid for itself

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J.B. Mauney’s helmet has more than paid for itself – in the past two weeks alone.

For the second consecutive week, J. B. Mauney was thrown against the metal chute just as the gate was opening. He was able to walk away from his wreck in Charlottesville, Va., without any significant injury. The same cannot be said for his smash down at the Springfield (Mo.) Invitational.

The 23-year-old from Mooresville, N.C., sustained a concussion without loss of consciousness when he was thrown forward  just after the gate opened on his final ride Sept. 19. His chin and upper right arm smashed into the corner of the gate.

Fortunately, because Mauney was wearing a helmet – a practice he started when he was 10 – the bottom of his mask took the brunt of the collision.

While Dr. Tandy Freeman, director of PBR’s sports medicine team, recommends that all bull riders wear helmets, the one thing helmets can’t do is prevent concussions, a common form of brain injury in high-impact sports. Even NFL players, who wear the most technologically advanced football helmets in the world, still sustain damage to their brains.

“That’s the shortcoming of helmets in that they don’t do anything to mitigate the force of the brain slapping up against the inside of the skull,” said Freeman, who works as an orthopedic surgeon in Dallas. “When the skull is moving at a rapid rate and stops suddenly, the brain doesn’t stop until it hits the inside of the skull, and that’s what causes concussions.

“That’s why wearing a helmet has a minimal effect on the numbers of concussions that we see, but it has a really good effect in terms of reducing the risk of facial fractures and skull fractures, and the problems that go along with skull fractures. They’re certainly serious injuries when people get those.”

Mauney said he knew he had suffered a concussion in Springfield, and so did Freeman, who has the power to hold a bull rider out of competition because of health concerns.

“He was not immediately responsive,” Freeman said. “He was awake, but he wasn’t able to answer questions at first. His ability to process information was not functioning normally. … If it had been the NFL, he would not have passed the sideline test.”

Still, Mauney wanted to get on a re-ride bull despite having had already secured the event title. He recalled his conversation with Freeman after he concluded post-event interviews.

“He said, ‘I’m glad you won the bull riding.’ I said, ‘Why?’ and he said ‘because I [would’ve hated] to had to argue with you,’’’ Mauney recalled. “I said, ‘I would have got on that bull,’ and he said, ‘I know you would have.’”

— by Chris McManes

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