Long Live Rodeo, Long Loves Rodeo

by Ruth Nicolaus

North Platte man competed in rodeo, now serves as athletic trainer

North Platte, Neb. – May 21, 2018 – Doug Long has a long affiliation with the Buffalo Bill Rodeo.

He grew up in a rodeo family, the grandson of George Long and the son of Larry Long, both recipients of the rodeo’s Trail Boss Award. He and his mom, Mary Ann, accompanied his dad as he competed at local rodeos in the steer wrestling, tie-down and team roping. Larry competed at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo in North Platte many times, with his wife and son in the stands.

In high school, Doug followed in his dad’s footsteps, participating as a heeler in the team roping. He graduated from North Platte High School in 1980 and went on to Kearney State College, now the University of Nebraska at Kearney, competing occasionally but realizing competition wasn’t financially feasible. “When I went to college, I did the math on what it would take to keep a horse in Kearney and feed it. I quickly figured out my ROI wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.”

After getting his bachelor’s degree in Kearney, then his master’s degree from Ft. Hays (Kan.) State University, he got his doctorate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2008.

Long moved back to his hometown and began work with Great Plains Health in North Platte. He is the lead athletic trainer, and, along with the other trainers from Great Plains Health, provides care at sports activities for high schools, Mid-Plains Community College, and other sporting events.

Great Plains Health has a mobile sports medicine trailer and for the past two years, has provided sports medicine during the Buffalo Bill Rodeo. Long has been one of the trainers staffing the trailer, even though he doesn’t spend as much time at the rodeo as he he’d like. “Invariably, I have a softball tournament the same weekend,” he said. He tries to make it to at least one night of rodeo.

Long enjoys working with the cowboy and cowgirl athletes. “They’re some of the toughest athletes going down the road,” he said. “Football players are 6’6” and weigh 300 pounds, and they’re colliding at the line. That’s a whole lot different than what it is with a 1,500 lb. bull and a 140 lb. cowboy. The impact forces are so much higher and they last longer.”

Long’s understanding of the sport and the fact that he used to compete comes in handy as a sports trainer. Athletic trainers who understand rodeo are important to rodeo cowboys and cowgirls. “These guys are making a living, going down the road hard and fast and they don’t want somebody to say, ‘you sprained your finger, you need to be out for six weeks.’ They need somebody to say, ‘here’s how you treat that so you can continue.’”

There’s continuity between what the sports trainers at Great Plains Health do and other sports trainers, especially Justin Sports Medicine, at other rodeos. “We’re hooked into the Justin (Sports Medicine) program and we pass on information so whoever saw those guys last can put it in a database so we can see it. There’s a lot of communication that way.”

Long loves the sport and its players. “Rodeo’s kind of in my blood. I like all aspects of it. I appreciate the physical aspects of it. They’re tough people, they’re in shape.”

He’s also made lots of friends on the rodeo trail.

“You develop a relationship with those guys.”

Athletic trainer Tyler Oberlander and Dr. Nathan Jacobson, sports orthopedic doctor, started the rodeo program.

The Buffalo Bill Rodeo takes place June 13-16 in North Platte at the Wild West Arena. Performances start each night at 8 pm, and tickets range in price from $7 to $20. They can be purchased online at www.NebraskaLandDays.com, at the gate, or at the office at 2801 Charlie Evans Drive (at the Wild West Arena in North Platte.) For more information, visit the website or call 308.532.7939.

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