On the second anniversary of the death of Merritt pro bull rider Ty Pozzobon, the Ty Pozzobon Foundation and Canadian Pro Rodeo Sports Medicine Team released the second in a series of mental health awareness videos.
The rodeo world was shocked on Jan. 9 of 2017, when Pozzobon, a beloved world-class bull rider, committed suicide at age 25 at his home in Merritt.
Pozzobon had suffered a number of concussions over his rodeo career, and had been suffering from depression and anxiety in the days and weeks leading up to his death.
The Pozzobon family made the decision after his death to donate his brain to traumatic brain injury research and, shortly after, the Ty Pozzobon Foundation was created to work with the rodeo sports medicine team to promote competitors’ health and well-being.
Nine months after Pozzobon’s death, researchers at the University of Washington announced he was the first confirmed case of a professional bull rider with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease known to affect boxers, football players and other athletes who suffer numerous concussions.
His family has been vocal advocates in bringing awareness to the issue of mental and physical health in rodeo.
Many members of the rodeo community worldwide have become more open in discussing some of the concussions and some of the other challenges facing the sport.
Former Riske Creek bull rider Hugh Loring came forward in the months after his friend’s death to discuss the impacts a career-ending brain injury continue to have on his life.
“I hope with more people talking about it, it will help others understand just how serious a head injury is,” Loring said during a 2017 interview.
“Maybe our little buddy could have still been here if we knew more about it. I’d like to learn more about it, myself, so I can help others.”
The first video in the series, released by the rodeo sports medicine team, focused on concussion awareness, while the latest video more broadly addressing the importance of mental health.
“The central theme of this video from the contestant perspective is that ‘It’s okay to say I’m not okay,’” Brandon Thome, the team’s vice-president, said.
“We want there to be a realization that there is help out there. We also hope those involved in western sport continue to learn more to take further care of themselves.”
Since its creation in February 2017, the Ty Pozzobon Foundation has raised more than $250,000 to support and protect the health and well-being of western sports participation inside and outside the arena.
Rodeo athletes throughout North America have been fully supportive of the cause and Pozzobon since his death, with many friends carrying on Pozzobon’s legacy sporting “Live Like Ty” logos embroidered on their rodeo gear.