Bareback bronc rider Anthony Thomas has dreamed of being crowned world champion since he was a young teenager in Australia taming wild horses.
But before he can reach that milestone, there’s one thing he must do. Heal.
Two and a half years ago, Thomas suffered what he believed to be a broken elbow during a competition. He didn’t even fall off the bronc—the rodeo term for a horse that bucks—but the sheer force from the animal was so extreme that something snapped.
He didn’t know what or in how many places—all he knew was that he would have to ride through the pain. And that’s exactly what he did for 18 months.
“That was my first ride for that week, and I had to ride another three, so I think I broke it pretty good by the end of the week, and it really didn’t get any rest for another year and a half before I got it fixed,” Thomas said. “I kept competing with it because I had to keep making a living and trying to make my goals a reality. In rodeo, you don’t get paid unless you win.”
Eventually, though, Thomas lost all feeling in his arm from the bicep down, which meant he had lost his grip. In bareback bronc riding, the rider grips a leather handle attached to rigging that wraps around the horse’s shoulders. During competition, the rider uses only one hand to grip the handhold and hang on.
Thomas finally scheduled X-rays and, after competing in the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo in April 2018, headed to Fort Worth for what was supposed to be a straightforward surgery.
It turned out, however, that Thomas was suffering from far more than a broken bone.
A pre-surgery MRI revealed a laundry list of problems, including recurrent hyperextension injuries, a minimally displaced anterior medial coronoid fracture, and an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tear—something commonly seen in professional pitchers. Thomas had torn his UCL on both the proximal and distal sides, which required an extensive repair. His MRI also showed chronic entrapment of his radial, medial and ulnar nerves, indicating that the three major nerves running down his forearm were surrounded by scar tissue, decreasing their ability to send electrical signals to his hands and, thus, reducing his grip strength. He also suffered from scar tissue and stiffness in his elbow joint, as well as bone spurs, which triggered a sharp pain every time a horse bucked and his elbow straightened.
The surgeons in Fort Worth did their best to repair the damage, cleaning out the areas around the nerves, removing the bone spurs, taking out the pieces of fracture that hadn’t healed and reconstructing his UCL. It was a major surgery—so extensive that it could have ended a riding career. But Thomas was determined to get back in the arena, his sights unwavering and set on the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, where the world champions are crowned.
A friend recommended Thomas get in touch with Brian Duncan, a physical therapist and the director of human performance at Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute in Houston. Thomas was willing to try anything, plus the gym was located less than 30 miles southwest of the ranch in Humble, Texas, where he works with horses.
After a series of conversations and consultations, Thomas began seeing Duncan and his team regularly at the institute’s Human Performance Lab starting in October. By that time, he had lost a substantial degree of strength and the muscles in his arm were so stiff that he couldn’t straighten his elbow.
“Our first goal was to try to get his range of motion back, because after the surgery, his elbow was really bent, so we tried to strengthen and just avoid as much pain as we could,” explained Blaine Schmidt, a performance coach at the institute who has worked closely with Thomas. “After that, it was trying to get all of his strength back, because he was out for months with almost no physical activity.”
Schmidt and Duncan’s team studied bareback bronc riding; they combed through videos and took notes of how the body moves on a bucking horse. Then they set to work designing a rehabilitation program tailor-made for Thomas’ injuries and his sport.
“We took what us physical therapists and strength coaches know about the biomechanics of other sports and then Anthony walked us through the biomechanics and requirements of his sport and where people get into trouble—what positions and things like that. And so that allowed us to better design his strength and conditioning and his rehab,” Duncan said. “It’s definitely not something we necessarily study in school.”
Riding a bucking bronc bareback takes a huge toll on the entire body. In terms of gravitational force, or G-force, it is comparable to crashing a race car.
The team scrutinized what a bareback rider’s back, abs and shoulders need to withstand to sit in the right position—the position that doesn’t lend itself to injury. They learned that every time a horse bucks, the rider must let his legs relax, then move his knees up towards his shoulders before snapping his legs down and catching his spurs in the horse to—as Duncan put it—“grip like crazy.”
“It looks like they’re just getting thrown all around but they’re relaxing at the right moments and then snapping back into position,” Duncan said. “Anthony would go frame-by-frame with us and explain what he was doing. He’d say, ‘I’ve got to stay on my saddle. I’ve got to have my elbow tucked in and my shoulder retracted back. I’ve got to have my wrist here and my chin tucked because if my chin goes back, then my whole body will follow my head and arch back and then the horse will buck. And if I’m not tight through my abs, I’m not ready for the next buck and then I’m out of position and I can’t hold on, and then I’m off the horse.’”
In bareback riding, there’s no muscle in the body a rider doesn’t use, Thomas said. But what has impressed him about Duncan and his team is that they’ve learned precisely how he should use each muscle to be as well conditioned as possible for competition.
“They’ve done a really good job helping me out,” Thomas said. “And they’ve done an even better job of learning my sport and studying it every day and learning how my body works for my event and which parts of my body to train in different ways than they would for other athletes.”
When he’s not riding, Thomas goes to the Human Performance Lab to work out every weekday for hours at a time. He starts with physical therapy to loosen his muscles, a routine that often includes an ultrasound to warm the muscles and a therapy called Graston Technique, which is essentially a deep tissue massage to treat scar tissue. He then focuses on his elbow joint, some lower level strengthening and muscle activation exercises.
When Thomas is finally warmed up, he starts a full-body workout, which often includes incline dumbbell presses, hip thrusters and reverse fly exercises using a resistance band. Many of the unique exercises his trainers created mimic the position of riding a horse, or even being bucked. During one such routine, Thomas will hold a free weight against a towel pressed against his head, then move back and forth exercising the muscles in his neck and shoulders.
“Bareback riding is eight seconds of very high-intensity work, so we have been structuring his program to get progressively more intense. We’ll have hard days and easier days and days that really focus on grip strength and days that focus on whole body strength, including a lot of neck and back work,” Duncan said. “Anthony also had a couple of hip surgeries he’d never rehabbed—both hips were reconstructed—so we’re working on those, too. It’s hard to recover in rodeo. You ride and then you’re off to the next rodeo, you sleep on the way, then you’re riding again.”
Duncan and Schmidt monitor Thomas’ schedule and progress regularly, even on the weekends when they’re not at work. Schmidt has also created a warm-up schedule for Thomas to complete before each competition to reduce the risk of injury and help with soreness and inflammation.
“I used to get much sorer and more inflamed before I did the competition workout he made for me,” Thomas said. “We might drive 12 or 14 hours or something and ride a bucking horse and use everything we have and use all our adrenaline and the lactic acid is flowing, and then we have to jump back in the car and sit for another 10 or 12 hours, so you get sore and stiff easily.”
It’s an incredible amount of strain on a body, but for Thomas, it’s worth it.
Growing up in Western Australia, Thomas was first introduced to horse riding when he was 12 years old.
“I kind of had a bit of a rough childhood and I decided to move away from home. I went to agricultural boarding school in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “I ended up moving to a cattle station with friends of mine that I went to school with, and we had a lot of wild horses and wild cattle, so I was kind of drawn to the danger of it and I never really got hurt that much and it was something that I just always had a craving for and something I was good at.”
He fell into rodeo after that, competing and winning at local competitions. He decided to move to the eastern states in Australia, where the pro-rodeo circuit was and set small goals for himself. He ended up winning the pro-tour title there in 2011, so he moved to Canada in 2012 and then entered the United States on a sports visa in 2013.
“I’ve been back and forth for the last six years riding full time on the professional circuit,” Thomas said. “I moved to the United States to make the national finals and be a world champion one day.”
Despite his injuries, Thomas is more certain than ever that he’ll get there.
“I’m definitely more fit and agile and fast and stronger than I’ve ever been,” he said. “These guys went to school to study how the human body works in a performance aspect, and once they put that together with an understanding of the rodeo event that I do, they’ve helped me target the muscle groups that I need specifically for what I do. There’s no amount of training you can do to prepare yourself for a bucking horse—you can’t simulate the violence that the bucking horses have toward your body in a gym. You just can’t. But what we do in here is we prepare so that I’ll have full control over my body so it’ll minimize injury.”
Maintaining health and fitness year-round is the key to success. In rodeo, the most consistent guys win, Thomas said.
“It’s just being flawless in your technique and being able to ride every single kind of horse,” he added.
Despite 15 surgeries prior to the last one in Fort Worth, Thomas had never undergone any type of physical therapy before arriving at the IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute. And that just may hold the key to his championship title.
“I’ve never rehabbed before in my life,” Thomas said one day at the gym.
“So he’s a true cowboy,” Duncan observed.
Return The Favor: Glowing green for Veterans https://t.co/w7LwFweRyD via @abc27News
@j_rodricks1 @MJEjags @katyisd We are so grateful for these blood donations. They make a huge difference in our cancer patients’ lives. Thank you.
Thousands of patients in need of heart surgery may soon have a new option. Read more: https://t.co/3p9SO6C3xz. https://t.co/PZ71Ui3vkB
Ready to hire a professional for your business?Well then search our talent pool for your perfect candidate Create an account today!Highly experienced professionals are waiting to perform at very high standards in your growing company.1. Post a Job: remote or local Post your job on We'cruitish job board and reach qualified candidates who are eager to be apart of your team. You will be pleasantly surprised when you see how easy it is to post jobs on our job board. You can also choose to receive applications by email or redirect applicants to a certain URL to complete the application process.2. Company Profile Page You can create a company profile page, which displays your logo, choose images and videos in the company descriptions section. you can add a link to your website and post any other information to attract more applicants. Such page contains all active jobs posted by this company in the second tab of the page.3. Search Workers We'cruitish created a smart keyword search system that carefully scans each candidate’s profile and each listing for the right keywords so that you can always find the best candidates for your vacancies.4. Employer Dashboard You have all the necessary tools to manage our jobs, see stats by job views, view applications from job seekers and manage profile settings in your dashboard.5. Applicant Tracking An appealing “kanban” style board allows categorizing applications by hiring status, look through all the information about a candidate, contact applicants and insert notes for each application.Click here to sign up https://wecruitish.com/sign-upOur no subscription! services let you pay only when you want Per Job Post Pay only when you need to post. Whats included?1 job postingno subscription!Featured Job Feature your Job to reach more candidates. Whats included?5X more exposure & applicationsJob stays top of search results1 Featured job postingDatabase Access Everything you need to grow your company Whats included?Monthly Resume AccessInvite candidate to a jobMessage CandidatesWith over 3,000 page views per day, once you post a job on our board you will get qualified candidates that match your job requirement. With We'cruitish Reduce your payroll up to 70%Highly educated professionals are ready to perform job/task that can be done remotely for a fraction of the cost you would pay traditionally in an office setting.Become a part of the We'cruitish team today!! Don't hesitate candidates are waiting for you
@MDMagazine Thanks for the shout-out
After a surprise diagnosis at age 36, Paula Carrillo finds success with overcoming stage 2A #colorectalcancer with Dr. Michael Overman: https://t.co/iVnpQGygSR #CancerMoonshot #endcancer
@GKHoustonMethod Thanks for the shout-out
@bernd_montag @SiemensHealth Appreciate the shout-out
Two of the graduate education programs at Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth were ranked among the highest in the nation in the just-released 2020 edition of the Best Graduate Schools guide by U.S. News and World Report.
Veteran reopens family business in Sweetwater https://t.co/no8JZ6xvjW via @MCADnews
Angiogenesis is the process of creating new blood vessels. Learn how angiogenesis inhibitors work in treating cancer: https://t.co/z42nWglE58 #endcancer
U.S. Department of Veterans AffairsVeteransAffairs
Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Aida Nancy Sanchez. Aida served during the Vietnam War from 1952 to 1976.Aida was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico in November 1931. She graduated at the age of 15 and won a scholarship to attend St. Mary of the Woods College in Indiana. She graduated in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry. Upon graduation, she applied and was accepted into the army physical therapy school program with an age waiver due to being under 21 at the time. Aida then headed to Fort Sam Houston, Texas to attend and graduate from the program in 1953. This is where she also met then General Dwight Eisenhower. Afterwards, she was assigned to the Brooke Army Medical Centre at Fort Sam Houston then to Fitzsimmons Army General Hospital in Denver, Colorado around 1956. During this assignment, Aida met President Eisenhower when he came to visit his friend whom was her patient. She stated that he remembered her from the physical therapy school and sent a pot of stew he made a day or two after the visit.After she completed her assignment at Fitzsimmons, she was sent to Rodriguez Army Hospital in Puerto Rico until she was discharged from active duty and went into the army reserves for two years. During that time, Aida worked for the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois for a year before becoming the Director of the Bureau of Crippled Children within the Department of Health of Puerto Rico. During her time in Puerto Rico, she received a letter from the Department of Defense stating that they needed more physical therapists, so she decided to return to active duty. Her first assignment was the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center, then she was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina for a year or two. Afterwards, Aida was sent to Fort Myer, Virginia to establish a physical therapy clinic within the Andrew Rader Clinic at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Once setting up the unit, Aida was sent to graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and upon graduation was assigned to Letterman Army Medical Center to oversee the clinical affiliations of five universities located near the hospital.Aida’s next assignment was to become the assistant chief of physical therapy at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii before she received orders to deploy in support of the Vietnam War in 1970. She was originally sent to the Army hospital in Saigon to replace the physical therapist but was routed to the 95th Evacuation Hospital near Da Nang to establish the first physical therapy clinic within the hospital. During her tour of duty, Aida was extended to deploy to Cambodia and assist then President Lon Nol because she had previously helped him during his stay at the Tripler Army Medical Center. She was constantly flying back and forth between Vietnam and Cambodia to help the president get physically better. She assisted many American and Cambodian soldiers and citizens with their physical therapy needs while deployed. After Aida redeployed, she was sent to Fort Gordon as the chief physical therapist who oversaw the transfer of the physical therapy clinic from older barracks into the newly built Eisenhower Army Medical Center. It took about six years to complete the task and Aida retired as a Lieutenant Colonel shortly after with about 24 years of service.Thank you for your service, Aida!
Join us, @TexasChildrens and @SPARKforAutism at a Community Awareness Research Event for underrepresented communities this Saturday. Register here: https://t.co/uNhKL7aXnM #autism #autismresearch https://t.co/KBpDj7yRQD
Baylor College of MedicineBaylorCollegeOfMedicine
Learn how Dr. Lisa Hollier is helping to shine a spotlight on maternal mortality and working to make childbirth safer for women around the world. #OBGYN
MD Anderson Cancer CenterMDAnderson
"With all of this support and love, it’s difficult to not be positive. Of course, some days were harder than others. I still remember how weak I sometimes felt and how uncomfortable it was to wear a pump after chemo," says Paula Carrillo."Still, I won’t complain. Despite the sudden bad news, I got a second chance, thanks to my family, my friends and my team at MD Anderson." #endcancer