You’ll find a large segment of the bull riding community that simply hates the idea of wearing a helmet in practice or competition. You can show them photos of heads split open like ripe melons and they won’t change their position. You can hand them a stack of reports on traumatic brain injuries that reaches higher than a saddlehorn and they’ll ignore the unmistakable conclusion: Helmets save lives. They’ll resist the idea of a bull riding helmet with every stitch of their jeans.
A helmet doesn’t look cool. It’s not traditional. It doesn’t feel comfortable. The odds are against needing a helmet. The greats never wore a helmet. There are a million and one excuses to avoid donning one.
Let’s cut through the excuses for a moment. After all, we all know they aren’t as persuasive as the rock-solid medical evidence favoring the use of a bull riding helmet. No matter what you might say you think, or what you might claim to believe, the facts line up behind helmets. That’s not open for argument. You’re entitled to your own opinion. That doesn’t mean you get to make up your own facts.
Now, you may believe that you need to pretend to be untouchable in order to succeed. You may think that you’re air of invincibility is a key to getting the job done. It isn’t. Bull riding is a matter of skill and heart. It isn’t a byproduct of pretending to be an immortal. The best of the best understand the danger and come to terms with it. They don’t pretend as if it doesn’t exist.
When you come down, you don’t know how you’re landing. Your control is minimal to nonexistent. Even if you can avoid a nasty thunk on the noggin when you’re hitting the dirt, you certainly can’t control whether or not that animal is going to going to decide that his hooves or head needs to try to occupy that same space. You don’t need to be a theoretical physicist to figure out what’s going to happen if that happens. You know how that story ends and it isn’t pretty.
If you’ve been riding for any length of time, you’ve seen bad injuries. Even if you haven’t seen a traumatic brain injury, you’ve undoubtedly witnessed more than a few broken or crushed bones. On some level, you recognize the risk involved in getting on the back of a bull without protective headgear. Now it’s time to put the “cool factor” on the shelf and to admit that the fact that a bull riding helmet isn’t as comfortable as your favorite hat isn’t a good enough reason to risk scrambling your brains.
Take off your Stetson. Put on your bull riding helmet. It’s that simple.