Bull riding isn’t going to die. The sport has a concussion protocol (albeit figuring in 1 concussion per cowboy, not multiple) and we could surmise Pozzobon, the 2016 Canadian Professional Bull Riders (PBR) champion, who competed in the iconic Calgary Stampede four times, and who grew up watching his Dad and Uncle ride bulls, wouldn’t want his sport to be killed off – but...what is to be done?
Step 1? Change the sport from a pay-only-comes-from-a-ride fee structure to a salaried one so cowboy's wouldn't want to compete no matter the risk to their lives. Salaries could be based on previous annual earnings with newcomers at some agreed-upon starting benchmark.
Step 2? Make cowboys not so tough. Currently self-reporting on disabilities to authorities is the norm and cowboys don’t want to talk and tell of weaknesses and ailments, real or imagined. (It has been said, for example, that Ty suffered more than a dozen concussions.
Well, you’d think that the introduction of helmets by the PBR back in 2012 would have been a good step, right? But this safeguard is not a catch-all panacea. Firstly, wearing helmets is optional - and a bull can crush a helmet like you or I can squash a grape. Secondly, in fact, Dr. Tandy Freeman, the Medical Director for the PBR, who checked out Ty for concussion symptoms in 2014, says that helmets DON’T prevent concussions. He says: "The primary mechanism of concussion is acceleration and deceleration or rotational force — in other words it's what happens to the brain inside the skull as a result of changes of direction,". He also avers concussions account for 15% of bull riding injuries. Thirdly, and most alarmingly, bull riders suffer “significant injury” every 15 rides, according to an HBO feature. Mixed Martial Arts may be, compared to bull riding, the proverbial walk in the park because, let’s face it - bulls don’t care a s—t for regulations - and don’t give a damn for Marquess of Queensberry Rules.
As it goes, so far Post-Concussion Syndrome and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy are thought to have been possible catalysts to Ty taking his life, but Ty had been discussing his ailments with a family doctor. Now his widow, Jayd Pozzobon, surely must wonder about the sport, concussions, love of the sport, and what may be an irrational affinity, by so many of us, for an event so dangerous...
Should something be done about rodeos generally? National Geographic news reported “The U.S. professional rodeo circuit averages one or two deaths annually. Several more riders suffer serious spinal or brain injuries each year, according to the World Health Organization's Helmet Initiative.”
(Recall that Scotland, England, and Wales banned fox hunting due to love and concern for foxes. Would the world consider humans as worthy as foxes and therefore ban bull riding? Not likely.)
Back to cowboys and Ty. How about this for a stirring - but scary - epitaph?
OneRideAtATime on Facebook penned:
“As I live the Cowboy Way, Protection is what I pray, I don't know my Fate, Outside of the gate. If my ride sees trouble, Send Angels on the double, For in you the Lord I rest, Let my life pass your test. By pure grace I am saved, Lord, ride with me. That's the Cowboy Way, And what bull riders pray.”
As for Ty, the person, outside of his career in a sport so tough, as mentioned, 8 seconds is a victory and for a guy so tough, he rode in last November’s PBR World Finals WITH A BROKEN HAND (and finished fourth) - Pro Rodeo Canada sums him up best:
“And while all of us mourn the loss of one of our sport’s brightest stars, we are painfully aware that we have also lost one of the truly genuine people in this or any sport,” the organization said on its website. “The ever-ready Pozzy grin, the endless love and devotion to family and friends, his ability to pick up the spirits of those around him — those are special talents — as great, and maybe even greater, than his superstar ability to ride the rankest bulls in the industry.”
As for his competitors? Riders sported Pozzy 23 patches in honor of him. Finally his hometown, “...Merritt city council was mulling the possibility of adding “Home of professional bull rider Ty Pozzobon” to the city’s three welcome signs.”
Ty, when reflecting about golf and its millions of bucks awarded to its best, offered: “...Come on, put these boots on for a second...” His parents, in reflection, have asked donations go to Rider Relief, an organization that helps injured Bull Riders...take the necessary time, by clearing bureaucratic barriers, to get better...
Tyrell Luke Pozzobon was just 25-years old when his life took a turn for the worse.