PLATTE CITY, Mo. -- You've heard of concerns about concussions in football.
The sport of rodeo may be one of the most dangerous games in the word, and it too is addressing the issue. Professional Bull Riders come to Sprint Center this weekend, and many riders will be wearing special helmets made in the metro.
In almost two years’ worth of business, owners at 100X Helmets say they're proud to keep scores of rodeo riders safer. The Platte City-based business has created hundreds of helmets, all of which are similar in theory to football helmets, but built specifically for the higher impact bull riding offers.
“Our goal is to minimize head injuries,” Cris Welch, 100X Helmets Co-Founder, said.
Welch spent over 20 years as a college football coach, including time on the football staff at Boston College. He knows football hits can be strong, but Welch says the impact a bull rider feels can be nearly four times as strong.
“Bull riders are taking helmet to skull hits on the bulls anywhere from 250 to 300 Gs. It's insane,” Welch said on Friday.
The hits a rodeo performer experiences can come more quickly as the bulls bounce, and often, the huge animals, which can weigh over 1,500 pounds, toss their riders to and fro like rag dolls.
100 X Helmets founders claim to make the only helmet specifically designed for rodeo. Many active bull riders wear hockey or motorcycle helmets. 100X’s helmets feature a strong metal facemask, and a specialized chinstrap that keeps the headgear from coming off. Welch says the helmets are designed to absorb impact, and reduce the risk of rodeo head injuries. 100 X's helmets sell for around $500 apiece.
“Bull riders, even though they say it's only eight seconds, once they're in trouble or have an impact, they're more susceptible to having a repeat impact within a fraction of a second,” Welch explained.
Welch says helmets are catching on. It’s been a challenge, asking cowboys to switch from traditional Stetson hats to hard-shelled helmets.
“When an impact comes in, we want that energy to go in that point,” Cody McGee, 100X’s Co-Founder, said, while smacking the helmet’s crown with his hand.
McGee grew up in the rodeo lifestyle. He says his family worked on the production end of many shows. His father even worked as a rodeo clown for a time. McGee says he’s serious about protecting the future of this violent sport.
“Just this morning, I got an email from a gentleman out of Texas,” McGee said. “His son got kicked in the back of the head last night. He was just saying thank you. Something as simple as that about what we've done, that's what's fun about it.”
Rodeo riders from around the world come to the company’s Platte City office to have their helmets built and serviced. Many of them will travel there from Sprint Center, where PBR Bull Riding will pack the house on Saturday and Sunday.