The baseball hat that Austin Stewart, the clown from North Carolina, wore while in the ring at this year’s Manor Fun Daze PBR had one simple word Pozzy. For those in the rodeo world, they would know this as a reference to Ty Pozzobon, one of Canada’s top bull riders, who took his own life in January 2017.
Tanner Byrne, a fellow PBR was a close friend of Pozzobon. He also competed against him in the 2016 Built Ford Tough World’s Finals in Las Vegas. “It was the biggest shock in the bull riding world I’ve probably ever seen. It shook the whole the community, worldwide.” At the top of his career, he took his own life just two months after winning fourth place. To remember him, Byrne along with some of Pozzy’s other friends started a foundation named after him.
Shortly after Pozzobon took his life, his family also decided to donate his brain for testing at the University of Washington. There it was discovered that much like other athletes in sports such as hockey, football and boxing, the 25 year old was diagnosed with having Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). “It’s what they have been finding in football players that has numerous hits to the head. They seems to be normal and healthy (the players and riders) but there is a correlation in the findings between CTE and anxiety, depression, and in some cases suicide,” explained Byrne.
“We wanted to start something to show the love and support we have for the western lifestyle,” added Byrne. “It’s not a team sport (PBR). We are all independent. The Ty Pozzobon Foundation is trying to change the mentality of being tough and riding through anything, even a concussion, into it being tougher to take care of yourself and treating yourself like a true athlete.”
Byrne explained that the foundation teaches youth about the possible signs of concussions and how to deal with them, as well as when and where to seek help. “It’s been pretty amazing so far to see how what’s happened to Ty and with the foundation giving support now, how it’s already saved the lives of the people who have been living the same way. They know they are not alone. They reach out and get support now.” The funds raised so far have been enough to have a Canadian Pro Rodeo Sports Medicine team at every event last year - before that they were intermittent. “Our motto at the foundation is to protect the health and well-being of rodeo competitors inside and outside of the arena.”