OGDEN — For the past 85 years, cowboys and cowgirls have gathered in the Ogden area for the quintessential western event: the rodeo.

Years ago, they would gather to race ponies and break horses. If injuries were to occur, likely they’d be told to rub some dirt in it, or cowboy up.

The medical treatment is a bit more updated nowadays, to say the least.

Friday was the first of five performances for Ogden’s yearly Pioneer Days Rodeo, a nationally recognized PRCA rodeo. Nearly a dozen medical personnel from McKay-Dee Hospital and Intermountain Healthcare will be standing by for each day of the rodeo, waiting to be called. However, they are often the ones to make the first move.

“With a lot of the more professional rodeo guys, they get banged up and tend to walk it off, more often than not,” Jake Saunders says with a laugh. Saunders is one of two residents at McKay-Dee Hospital helping out at the rodeo.

Standing by is an attending physician, Dr. Clark Madsen, and two McKay-Dee Hospital residents, Saunders and Spencer Ruben, both in their third year of residency. They also have two athletic trainers and a physical therapist.

For Ruben and Saunders, the 85th annual rodeo is their second on the medical side of things. They’ve been looking forward to being at the rodeo again, with both saying it’s a fun event to work. Madsen has been working the event for a little longer, this is his third or fourth year at the event, he says.

“Most of the injuries we deal with are bumps and bruises,” Madsen said. “A lot of people just want to get checked to see if they’re OK. Rarely do we have anything too serious that happens, but that being said we’re prepared for anything that can happen.”

If needed, paramedics from the Ogden Fire Department are also nearby, if an ambulance or a stretcher are ever needed.

“We can take care of 90 percent of the things that would happen here, and we have an ambulance here for that extra 10 percent that we can’t take care of, so we have a pretty good system and organization for dealing with anything,” Madsen said.

The doctors and medical staff are prepared. They know that a broken bone, a concussion, or something worse can happen at the drop of a hat.

“We’re close to 14-15 people here that are dedicated just to the rodeo,” said Timothy Kendell, professional relations manager for Intermountain Healthcare.

In recent years, Kendell says the rodeo hasn’t seen many serious injuries.

“We really, knock on wood, we’ve had pretty good successes as far as nothing really too traumatic considering everything going on,” Kendell said.

He recalled one year when a cowboy walked over to the medical tent after a ride, saying nonchalantly that his chest and arm shouldn’t look like that. The medical staff quickly learned the cowboy had torn the pectoral muscle off his arm.

“These are pretty tough guys,” Madsen said.

A bulk of the prep work is done by the athletes themselves, as medical staff members are always willing to hand out rolls of tape and padding. A bareback rider layers his riding arm with athletic tape to give it a stiff, rigid hold; while a bull rider later pulls out some tape from in his pocket, rolling the tape at the end of his glove to tighten around his wrist for his impending ride.

Friday’s performance was dedicated to first responders, a fitting recognition for the number of EMS, fire and police personnel found around Ogden Pioneer Stadium for the event.

The trainers and physicians would see a number of different patients that night. Whether it was a bronc rider who took a spill, or a youngster with bumps and bruises from the mutton bustin’, the staff from Intermountain is standing by, ready to jump in where needed.

As the night went along, a number of riders would use the medical tent, mostly to get taped up or stretched out by trainers.

Nearing the end of the bull riding, normally the final event of the night, a rider is thrown off and stepped on. Physicians and trainers quickly go over to check out the cowboy, who says he had the wind knocked out of him, but tells the medical staff he’s all right. Kendell says the cowboy had a large red hoof mark on his chest.

The bull rider is one of the handful of athletes who head to the medical tent after the rodeo. Though the stands are empty and the events are over, the duties of the medical staff are far from finished.

“Our staff will be standing by in case they need anything. A lot of times they just ask for an ice pack and a big Advil,” Kendell said.

The night has come and gone, with no serious injuries to cowboys or cowgirls. That’s just the way the medical staff likes it.

“It wasn’t a bad night for us,” Kendell says. “We don’t want to be too busy.”

Jacob Scholl is the Cops and Courts Reporter for the Standard-Examiner. Email him at jscholl@standard.net and follow him on Twitter at @Jacob_Scholl.

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