Ty Pozzobon was the winner at the Bella Coola Valley Ridge Riders Rodeo in 2009.

Family spreads awareness after bull rider’s death

Research in the field of brain injuries and concussions and how they affect mental health is about to become front and centre

Research in the field of brain injuries and concussions and how they affect mental health is about to become front and centre with the death of beloved bull riding champion Ty Pozzobon.

The Pozzobon family is wanting to draw attention to the issue after the 25-year-old took his own life Monday at his home located 25 kilometres west of Merritt.

“It’s important that people know about the implications of head injuries as a result of concussions,” his mother, Leanne Pozzobon, stated in a news release from the family Tuesday evening.

Family spokesperson Gail Joe said Ty suffered several concussions throughout his bull riding career, which began as a young boy in the Little Britches Rodeo Circuit.

“He had at least 12 or more,” Joe said in a conversation with the Tribune Thursday. “The family knew he was stressed out and not his normal self, but you never know the severity of it until something like this happens. Now it’s the guilt and all the what ifs.”

Joe said it had been at least six months since Ty’s last concussion, and just over two months since he last rode, which was at the PBR Word Finals in Las Vegas where he placed fourth.

Research in the last decade has concluded, however, that a brain injury can affect a person’s physical, emotional and mental well-being for an undetermined amount of time and that athletes such as Pozzobon can have long-term repercussions with repeated events.

Joe said doctors were expected to harvest brain tissue samples of the bull rider this week as part of the family’s wishes to further research in the field of head injuries and concussions.

“The family is devastated but they want to help others,” Joe said.

Ty’s funeral was held at the Merritt Civic Centre.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made to the Rider Relief Fund, which provides financial assistance  to athletes, bull riders and bullfighters, injured in the competitive sport of bull riding. Athletes from all levels of competition, youngsters just starting out to seasoned professionals, are eligible to apply for assistance.