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Sports medicine physicians: The unsung heroes of rodeo

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Posted at 4:36 PM, Aug 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-03 19:08:30-04

GREAT FALLS — Anyone who has ever been to a rodeo has experienced just how much fun it can be, from the saddle bronc riding to the steer wrestling to bull riding and everything in between.

Cowboys and cowgirls do their best to go out there and put on a show despite what injuries they may face due to some of the falls and stomps from the livestock, but that is where the unsung heroes come in.

Sports medicine physicians are usually on site for rodeos to take care of the non-major disasters (they leave those to the EMTs). Dr. Flint Ray is a sports physician at Benefis in Great Falls but he also takes on the responsibility of helping out the cowboys at the Big Sky Pro Rodeo.

“A lot of these cowboys just want to keep going and that’s where we can step in and help,” said Ray. “Different ways of taping, different ways of rehabbing and bracing to try and keep the guys on the trail.”

They take care of a lot of the “bumps and bruises” that come after the cowboys go for their rides, but they also do a lot of preventive care before hand to try and avoid those injuries. Sports medicine physicians are the unsung heroes in the dark that keeps the rodeo talent healthy to give the fans a good show.

Their role is very important but the ones like Ray remain humble and wouldn’t necessarily call themselves an unsung hero.

“I’d feel grateful and proud to be called that but I kind of like to hang in the shadows,” said Ray. “Just keep the spotlight on the real stars and just keeping them going makes me happy.”

Ray treats approximately three to four guys per night during the rodeo, with most of them not having serious injuries. Over the span of the four day rodeo, he usually only tends to one or two major injuries, but whether the injury is small or big he is there to take care of them and make sure they can get back to the action.