Horse rider who suffered horrific broken neck rides again thanks to F1 technology

October 26, 2010 | by | 23 Comments

A woman who suffered a broken neck known as a ‘hangman’s fracture’ after an horrific fall from her horse is back in the saddle thanks to revolutionary technology –pioneered in Formula One RACING CARS.

Horse rider who suffered horrific broke neck rides again thanks to F1 technology

Thea Maxfield, 26, suffered near fatal injuries when her dressage horse Thiorella bucked her 20ft into the air and she landed badly last October.

The ‘hangman’s fracture’ meant Thea had to hold her own head in her hands to avoid damaging her spinal cord after her vertebrae shattered leaving no supporting connective tissue.

Doctors initially warned Thea that she could be permanently paralysed and spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

But they fixed a permanent brace to her neck for three months to fuse the vertebrae and Thea was riding again seven months later after physiotherapists used technology from the world of F1.

She also drank a herbal remedy of Comfrey – known as ‘Symphytum officinale’ – normally given to horses to increase the elasticity of the bones and prevent them becoming brittle after a fracture.

Horse rider who suffered horrific broke neck rides again thanks to F1 technology

Thea is the first person in the world to undergo treatment for a broken neck using a specially-adapted head brace connected to a computer by tiny sensors.

The sensors, which measure the force and stresses an F1 car goes through as it speeds round the track, were used to assess the strength and weakness of Thea’s neck.

This information was fed into a super-computer and her physiotherapists used it to tailor an exercise routine to ensure her neck healed at the perfect rate.

She now hopes to compete in major competitions after the groundbreaking physiotherapy.

Horse rider who suffered horrific broke neck rides again thanks to F1 technology

Thea, who runs a stud farm in Bicester, Oxon., said: ”As soon as I came off the horse I knew something was wrong.

”I went to get up but my head stayed on the floor. I couldn’t move my neck or my head and I had to literally pick my head up and carry it in my hands.

”My horse was galloping around and I just had to get out of the way. When we arrived at the hospital I was told that this type of fracture can kill people.

”I didn’t have that much hope of a recovery but I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been able to use this new technology which has helped me tremendously.”

Thea had been trotting her 16.2hh mare Thiorella in the ménage at her stud farm in front of mum Diane, 66.

But the mare suddenly bucked in the air flinging Thea into the air before she smashed onto the ground head-first.

Horse rider who suffered horrific broke neck rides again thanks to F1 technology

She suffered a fractured skull and remained in hospital for several days before being released with a neck brace to wear for three months.

Physiotherapist Don Gatherer, who developed a £6,000 TGP Analysis device to treat top sportsmen, stepped in to help.

Don used the load cells and strain gauges that measure the force of steering wheels, suspension and airflow on F1 cars to accurately record the strength of Thea’s muscles.

The pair bought a mechanical horse and developed a special harness to measure the exact strength of Thea’s neck muscles.

Don was then able to tailor the exercises exactly needed to repair Thea’s neck without causing further injuries.

Horse rider who suffered horrific broke neck rides again thanks to F1 technology

Doctor’s said that Thea might need a few years before she recovered but she was riding horses again after just seven months.

She now plans to compete in the Prix St George’s level 2 dressage competition next year.

Thea said: ”I couldn’t believe it when my horse went berserk. She bucked twice vertically in the air and I was thrown into the air.

”It’s ironic that I had been rehabilitating the horse at the time and she was the one that injured me.

”My recovery has been speeded up beyond belief. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to use the technology.”

Physiotherapists usually give patients exercises based on how comfortable they feel in certain positions.

But the TGP Analysis device feeds data to a super computer to calculate how much force the muscles are able to withstand.

Don, from Ayelsbury, Bucks., believes the TGP Analysis device could also be used to test if benefits claimants are ”faking” injury.

He said: ”We can precisely measure the muscle strength, enabling us to create a safe training programme whilst ensuring forces exerting on the muscle during training are within guidelines.

”Previously, Thea lacked strength but combined with using our patented harness that prevents excess loads from being applied, she has improved core strength to improve posture and stability.

”We used a saddle horse for the training at the clinic and in the stable.

”This provided the best way of ensuring the right muscles are being worked upon as opposed to training whilst standing or sitting down.

”The accuracy of this system couple with the analysis software enables physios to use it as a method of understanding what muscle force is actually possible.

”This enables the physio to ensure the right treatment is administered or, in the case of benefit claimants, data will be available to assess suitability.

”The data from the machines could also be used to test if benefits claimants have genuine problems.”

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Comments (23)

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  1. Gilbertsonj says:

    I would have to say that this is one lucky woman. To of avoided paralysis and to carry on her life
    is nothing short of a miracle.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Maybe she should stop riding horses.

  3. Jake3_14 says:

    Darwin bait is still Darwin bait.

  4. jon g says:

    Very cool. Faster physiotherapy, that also leads to less muscle imbalance.

  5. Fdottdotw says:

    Brave, Courageous, Adventurous, Beautiful, Athletic, Determined, I could go and get the damned dictionary and thesaurus and continue all night. You must get back on the horse once you fall! Where and when did we all become pussies? This woman is wonderful! A blessing to you couch potatoes that have no life!

  6. Safffff says:

    A simple wearable airbag vest for riders would of prevented this from happening.

    • Tiddlywinks says:

      If you RTA, it specifically states that she landed on her head. An airbag vest would not have helped.

      • Ladyfitzpaine says:

        and you who doesnt read things properly….i stated “I have looked into the inflatable jackets for riders but my surgeon said they do not protect the neck from impact.” I know Thea landed on her head. i am talking about precautions for horse riders who have suffered a broken neck.

  7. travis says:

    I’d much rather see this technology applied to people that get injured not as a result of their own luxury / hobby accidents. Its great she is all healed up and back on the horse metaphorically and literally but at the same time this speaks volumes about the disparity between the rich and privileged and the poor and disadvantaged. I know that if I hurt myself engaging in some riskful behavior that many people would at least think, if not say, ‘thats what you get, you know better than…’

    If she had been in a car accident i would wonder about the conditions she was operating the car – its different if she is commuting to work or if she is engaging in some risky competitive street racing. Just like it would be a bit different if she was some cowgirl riding her horse on the ranch doing work.

    I dont have much sympathy for people that operate a 500 kilogram animal in ‘horse ballet’. I think many of you would feel the same if it was something like ‘motorcycle ballet’. You would rightly think ‘stupid hurts’ (sorry honda).

    The world and medical science needs to stop giving people the idea that they can have their cake and eat it too – there are risks and consequences out there and they are serious. Its not that the rest of us are ‘pussies’ its that we rightly realize that if you want to continue to walk under your own power in your elderly years you have to make choices and reduce risks. Just think of us ‘pussies’ as endurance competitors. Hell I would still be into all the fun crazy dangerous things I used to do in my youth if there were no consequences.

    I’ll leave you with a quote by one of my favorite authors, Aldous Huxley – ‘dream in a pragmatic way’ (dash the dreams that end in paralysis or death, mom was right, you will break your neck)

    • Bob Dobbs says:

      “I’d much rather see this technology applied to people that get injured not as a result of their own luxury / hobby accidents. Its great she is all healed up and back on the horse metaphorically and literally but at the same time this speaks volumes about the disparity between the rich and privileged and the poor and disadvantaged.”

      So, you are upset that a new, unproven technology wasn’t automatically available for everyone at a reasonable cost, while at the same time are upset that someone a little more privileged than others helped pay to prove the technology beneficial for everyone, which suggests it should be adopted for widespread use?

      “The world and medical science needs to stop giving people the idea that they can have their cake and eat it too”

      But .. that is exactly what you are asking for. “I demand the brand new treatment, but I don’t want to pay a lot for it because I am poor.”

      “I know that if I hurt myself engaging in some riskful behavior that many people would at least think, if not say, ‘thats what you get, you know better than…'”

      Not everyone can afford a car. It would be interesting to see how you would react if you were in a wreck and ended up like this woman and people whined at you about “well, that’s what you get for driving.” and “I am tired of the privileged people who can afford cars getting better treatment than us poor people who are injured walking somewhere through no fault of our own because we weren’t doing anything dangerous, like driving.”

      -_-

      • hifi says:

        This is seriously one of the stupidest things I have ever seen written down. So she didn’t deserve to heal because she was engaged in a hobby at the time of the accident? Or because she had money? Judging by how much you seem to love poor people, I’m surprised you object to a new and unproven (albeit technologically sophisticated) treatment method piloted on this person. Would you have preferred a socioeconomically disadvantaged racial minority orphan who had suffered their hangman’s fracture while diving out of the line of gunfire between rival gangs in the ghetto? More importantly, if the treatment hadn’t been successful, would the identity of the pioneering patient still matter to you just as much.

        I don’t think so.

      • travis says:

        — you said —
        So, you are upset that a new, unproven technology wasn’t automatically available for everyone at a reasonable cost, while at the same time are upset that someone a little more privileged than others helped pay to prove the technology beneficial for everyone, which suggests it should be adopted for widespread use?

        no thats not accurate, just making a social commentary on the fact the first place this technology is applied is on some high risk hobby accident victim, not some victim of some accident not caused by their own risk engagement, rich or poor really, tahts not the point so much, more along the risk engagement,.

        you said —
        But .. that is exactly what you are asking for. “I demand the brand new treatment, but I don’t want to pay a lot for it because I am poor.”

        i didnt say that or imply that. services and goods deserve payment.

        — you said–
        some anology or such about driving…

        the driving analogy is not at all similar. driving is not some frivolity or some luxury past time. driving isn’t for fun or for hobby or whatever. driving for transporation is less riskful than racing or stunt driving. She was doing something more similar to stunt driving. I prefer my perfect motorcycle rough rider type analogy where its a motorcycle instead of a horse.

        more people would be saying ‘you deserve what you get moron’ if it had been a motorcycle related stunt accident. I dont see a difference – heavy motorcycle, heavy horse, still a moron for doing stunts with heavy dangerous thing. not courageous, incredibly lucky to be alive and perhaps even undeserving of the second chance having risked your first with such a close and needless brush with death

    • Anonymous says:

      That has to be the most off point post I have read in months! People have hobbies, Rich or poor! People get hurt, Rich or poor! People make stupid assertions about things they do not like, or people they don’t like, out of stupidity or jealousy, or just because they(Travis) are a twit.

      • travis says:

        i doubt you would be so defensive of riskful behavior if it had been a motorcycle stunt accident instead of a horse stunt accident.

  8. Mikez68 says:

    And she’s totaly hot!

  9. Jqcitizen says:

    Hawt…

  10. Vince says:

    I’m not surprised by the comments I’ve read from people that feel that just because someone broke their neck while enjoying their hobby, they assume the person has money or is affluent, etc. They just simply miss the point of the story. Whether the person in the story has money or is affluent, it doesn’t matter. The story is that someone suffered a horrific injury, and technology from F1 racing was able to assist in the cure. I’ve read the comments from the narrow minded crowd, and tried to see things from their point of view. However, I cannot stick my head up my ass that far.

  11. Jaun344 says:

    Did she died?

  12. Joey2345 says:

    God Bless You…Hope you make a full recovery.

  13. Ladyfitzpaine says:

    I also received a Hang mans Fracture back in April this year 2010 when some idiot overtook a car without checking if there was another car coming the other way and hit me head on. I thought i was going to die when i saw that car coming towards me. I too am a horse rider and was told i may never ride again. I have pins and plates in my neck and thank god to another driver who stopped and made me stay still i am not paralysed. I have looked into the inflatable jackets for riders but my surgeon said they do not protect the neck from impact. I am due another operation next week to remove one of the pins in my neck.I wish the girl in this article well as i know how she feels.

  14. Cu_pid05 says:

    To Travis……………

    I am a para equestrian…. i was injured while riding my motorcycle to school and was left with 3 months in hospital…. and a fused knee!!!

    I now ride horses, as it gives me the freedom i lack on my own two feet…

    Do NOT judge someone or their situation as you have not been in their shoes!!!!

    PLUR

  15. My hats off to this courageous and determined athlete! Can you imagine the pain she had to endure to get rehabilitated? Add to that the fear factor that had to be present when she climbed back astride a horse.

    Socioeconomic status, IQ, Hobby/passion, .. <~~Totally misses the point here.

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