The immensely popular sport of bull riding is beginning to take on a much different look, as riders are now looking more like gladiators, than cowboys. Many riders are now wearing body armor and helmets. The traditional sight of bull riders wearing cowboy hats, is quickly being replaced by hockey style helmets.
"Its a dangerous sport it's the most dangerous sport you can be involved in to tell you the truth to prolong your career its just something that you've got to do" says champion bull rider Clayton Williams of Carthage. The 22 year old Williams is currently sporting torn ligaments in his right arm, and supports anything that will protect riders during their 8 seconds of terror on 2-thousand pounds of muscle.
"In a split second you could be taking a nap, some of these guys with practice bulls and all are getting on 200 bulls a year and that's a big chance to take so you've got to take every precaution you can" Williams says.
Though helmets aren't required, rodeo associations estimate that just under 40 percent of all it's bull riders now wear helmets. One of the causes cowboys are opting for a helmet now is for a very good reason, as they attempt to stay on the bull it's possible they could lurch forward and catch a horn right in the face. Risking being knocked out instantly. But with thousand of dollars in prize money at stake, for Williams there's no debate.
"Its another day lost that you cant go if you're hurt" Williams says.
Some of William's fellow riders say the helmets are heavy and block their vision, but he believes it's the look of the future. The PRCA and the Professional Bull Riders Association both require their bull riders to wear protective vests during competition. Right now helmets are optional.