Caring for elite athletes when the horse is the star

In the equestrian world, while the rider is recognised for their skill, it is the horse who is often covered in the glory! With so much focus on keeping the horse fit and healthy to compete, the rider’s needs can often take a back seat. Fortius Consultant Sports Physician, Dr Pippa Bennett has been recently appointed as Chief Medical Officer to the British Equestrian Federation, where she will be on call to make decisions about a rider either at the end of a phone, or at the event.

As Chief Medical Officer she will be supporting athletes in Team GB ahead of the World Equestrian Games in 2018 and the Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo 2020. Despite Pippa’s extensive experience in elite sport, (having already served as Chief Medical Officer for British Gymnastics and England Women’s Football Teams, and recently as Sports Physician to Norwich City FC), the injuries and challenges that come with equestrian athletes can be completely different.

The most common horse riding related injuries are concussion or head and neck injuries, often very serious or life threatening. No matter how experienced the athlete, they are still at risk; two years ago, elite veteran rider William Fox-Pitt was put into an induced coma following a serious fall during the World Horse Young Championships. Managing concussion is something all sports physicians have experience with, in particular those who work with contact sports athletes such as rugby players, footballers and horse riders.

Combined with the fact that equestrian athletes are ‘hardy folk’ with a mentality to ‘get on with it’ means riders often suffer from ongoing upper limb conditions such as chronic back pain or shoulder issues, while Paralympic athletes can often suffer from issues related to their disability. Pippa will be working alongside a great team of physiotherapists, trainers and biokineticists with the focus of keeping the riders fit and injury free.

Congratulations to Pippa on her new appointment. To make an appointment with Pippa or find out more about her experience in elite sport visit her biography.