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Vezain addresses back injury

by Tracy Renck | Sep 26, 2018


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Veteran bareback rider J.R. Vezain suffered a back injury while competing at the Pasadena (Texas) Livestock Show & Rodeo while riding Frontier Rodeo Company’s Brazos Bash, Sept. 22.

Vezain, a five-time qualifier for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (2012-14 and 2016-17), talked with ProRodeo Sports News Sept. 26 to describe what happened.

“It was just one of those fluke deals,” said Vezain, 26. “She was supposed to be a great horse. She was bucking good, and I was riding her good. We were probably going to be a lot of points, and she bucked back into the bucking chutes and reared up and reared over. I’ve had horses flip on me before, and I can usually get out of the way, but this one, she reared up and she didn’t come over right away. She spring loaded herself and then jumped in the air. When she came over, I was just like a sitting duck, and she smashed me.”

Vezain realized immediately he was severely injured.

“My legs went numb, but I’m not going to lie to you, I was in the zone,” Vezain said. “It was super surreal. I heard a voice, and it said, ‘You can either accept your back’s broke, your legs don’t work, your career is ending and your life is over. Or, you can start praying and accept that I’m a great healer and start asking for prayer.’ I started praying right away and people came running out, asking what I needed, and I was screaming, ‘I just need some prayer.’ I’ve been at peace about it the whole time.”

Vezain was taken from the arena and flown to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston. On Sept. 23, he had emergency surgery, which lasted five hours.

“They said surgery went really well,” Vezain said. “They call what I have a Chance fracture. It fractured all the way up the T10 vertebra and some of the T9, which is thoracic. The break wasn’t the main injury. What happened is that it shifted my spine, and when it shifted my spine, it compressed my spinal cord and was pinching off my spinal cord. Through the MRIs, they saw a little blood in the spinal canal. In the surgery, they shifted the spine back and got the blood out. They put two rods and eight screws from T8 to T12, fused it together and immobilized the fracture. I did some physical therapy Monday where I got to set up on the edge of my bed and find my balance. I did more physical therapy Tuesday. I still don’t have much sensation in my legs past my bellybutton, but some has come back. I don’t have any sensation in my legs yet, but it is on the way.

“The doctors talked to me and said the spinal cord will swell for three days, and Tuesday would have been the peak day of swelling in my spinal cord. So, from here on out, it should be decreasing and getting better. I moved rooms in the middle of the night (Tuesday) down to a lower ICU. They will keep me here and make sure my blood pressure is all right and my vitals are all right.”

Vezain was 14th in the PRCA | RAM World Standings with $78,376 Sept. 24.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Vezain at Vezain and his wife, Shelby, are expecting their first child May 19. They live in Melstone, Mont.

Casey Tew, a PRCA team roping header, also has established a fundraiser for Vezain. Tew is offering people a chance to win $500 worth of custom leather with 80 percent of proceeds going to benefit the Vezain family.

For every $10 donated, one raffle ticket is purchased. To purchase raffle tickets, visit and enter the amount you would like to donate. 

The next step, according to Vezain, will be to go to in-patient rehab at TIRR Memorial Hermann rehabilitation hospital, which is connected to the hospital where Vezain is staying.

“I think the surgery I had is all the surgery I will require,” Vezain said. “The next step is to get me into the TIRR rehab center, and that should happen Thursday or Friday. Most patients spend two-to-four weeks in the rehab center depending on how you progress. I’m going to be wearing a back brace for three months. The rehab will teach me how to get mobile in my wheel chair, and they will start moving my legs and getting me walking and getting me independent. We will go from there.”

Vezain’s faith is helping him.

“Every time we run our hand in, there’s a chance of something like this happening,” Vezain said. “You can have two attitudes, you can either look to blame and get mad and ask why, or you can make the most of it and find the positive and start working to get better. This has been humbling. I’m at a loss for words to see how many friends I truly have and everybody who has stepped up to help me out. The calls, the fundraising came together so fast, and all I can say is thank you to everybody. I do believe the good Lord will make something good from this, and I will be a walking miracle here before too long. I want to be the story that changes lives for the better. That to me is way more exciting and way more important than any gold buckle that can be won.”


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