Science & Equine

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Written by Els Smet
Posted in Rider fitness

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Common overuse injuries in horse riders

Overuse injuries are a common problem in horse riders, and can occur for numerous reasons, such as the horse pulling on the rider’s hands or tension in the back. Overuse injuries decrease the rider's ability to effectively communicate with the horse. The most common overuse injuries occur in the shoulder and upper back, the lower back and also the lower extremity.

Shoulder and upper back injuries can occur through pulling or stiffness. Chronic pain is often caused by muscle imbalance. The weaker side may suffer repetitive microtrauma and inflammation. If this occurs in the scapular stabilizers, or the rider has a slouched posture, scapular protraction can take place. This places increased load on the rotator cuff and glenohumeral joint, and can lead to impingement syndrome, rotator cuff syndrome or shoulder instability.

Low back pain is a common problem leading to reduced communication between horse and rider. Riders are at risk for spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis due to forces absorbed in extension. This can be treated conservatively by reducing extension and strengthening the core.

A rider’s legs are important for communication. Strong calf muscles are needed to drive the horse forward, while adductors provide stability. During riding, the knee is in a genu varus position, and gripping with the knee can cause tension of the quadriceps and hamstring muscles. The ankle is dorsi-flexed, meaning that the Achilles tendon is eccentrically loaded during riding, making Achilles tendinosis a common complaint.

> Pugh et al. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 2004: issue 6, 297-303. All rights reserved to Current Science Inc. Click here for the Pubmed summary

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