KENNEWICK -- Saddle bronc rider Heith DeMoss was twisted into a pretzel Thursday night before his ride at the Horse Heaven Round-Up.
DeMoss, the No. 3-ranked man in the world standings, was getting help from Rick Foster of the Justin Sportsmedicine Team in stretching his hip and back.
"I pretty much make my tracks around them," said DeMoss, a native of Helfin, La. "They are the glue that holds me together. They treat you like your momma would."
An hour later, DeMoss, 29, posted a score of 84 points to take over the lead in the event with two nights remaining.
"I dang sure wouldn't be able to do what I do without them," he said. "I'd be at the hospital. They make the sport better. My body wouldn't be able to function."
DeMoss seeks treatment from the Justin Sportsmedicine Team whenever he can. After being thrown from numerous broncs over the years and breaking his back three times, the therapists help keep him on the road.
"This is my family's livelihood," DeMoss said. "That's what I've trained for my whole life and when you've reached the pinnacle, it's hard to quit. It's the most extreme natural high."
The Justin Sportsmedicine Team is making its first appearance at the Horse Heaven Round-Up, and so far, so good.
"Being here for the first time, I'm impressed with the support," said Foster, a Nationally Certified Athletic Trainer and Program Director for the Justin Sportsmedicine Team. "Fair rodeos are hard. They should be commended. For us to be in an area close to the chutes is a bonus."
Foster, from Longmont, Colo., and Richard Boboier of Oklahoma City, Okla., are manning the JST trailer in Kennewick. The program has three trailers, which travel all over the United States providing free care for the cowboys and cowgirls.
"This is a contact sport, much like a demolition derby," Foster said. "Your opponents (the animals) are three to five times bigger than you are. We see similar injuries as with other contact sports -- knees, elbows, wrists and shoulders -- but the severity is greater because the force is that much greater.
"We are here to provide immediate care, proper care, help them follow up with care, educate them, and show them how to help themselves when they need to."
The JST team is helped along the way by student and local trainers, and local doctors. At the Horse Heaven Round-Up, they are being assisted by Northwest Orthopaedic Associates and Sports Medicine PLLC.
"We wouldn't be as successful if not for proper help from the locals," Foster said.
According to its website, the Justin Sportsmedicine Team was formed in 1980 by Dr. J. Pat Evans and Don Andrews to provide rodeo cowboys and cowgirls access to professional medical care.
In 1981 the program gained the sponsorship of the Justin Boot Company. Justin pledged its support as a means to give back to contestants who wore its products and its support continues today with the company serving as the program's sole benefactor.
Foster said their destination is based on the Justin marketing area, prize money and the size of the rodeo.
"Kennewick didn't solicit us," Foster said. "Sometimes people don't know they can get us, but because of the Champions Challenge leading into the rodeo, it made sense for us to be here.
"Kennewick has a rich tradition with rodeo. We've been to Hermiston, Caldwell, and we are going to Ellensburg after this. Then we will be in Puyallup and Pendleton. This time of year, this area is a hotbed for rodeos."
Once a cowboy has been treated, his injury and treatment are entered into the JST medical server, which staff around the country can access.
"Once they leave here, the guys at the next stop can access his records and see how he was hurt and the treatment he received," Foster said.
The JST does everything from putting back in a dislocated shoulder, stitching cuts and stretching, but the biggest service they provide is taping the cowboys. They tape ankles, wrists, elbows and anything else that isn't quite working right.
"We go through a few hundred miles of tape a year," Foster said. "It is our biggest expense. But it helps support them and helps them do their job."
Steer wrestler Tommy Cook came into the air-conditioned trailer Thursday to get a tape job on his ankle.
"I hurt my Achilles playing football in high school (more than 30 years ago)," said Cook, who makes his home in Heber, Utah. "They told me it would never heal. I've been doing pretty good, but I tweaked it in Sheridan (Wyo.) in early July and this helps."
When the JST isn't on site, Cook, 49, said the cowboys have to make do for themselves.
"I taped it up the other day for myself and it was a disaster," said Cook, as Boboier expertly applied tape. "Having these guys around is a plus."
Cook, who got a late start to the season, is ranked 43rd in the world standings. He's been to the National Finals Rodeo twice and is $15,909 out of the top 15.
"I need a few good weeks," said Cook, who later missed his steer in the second go.
When the rodeo is in session, the JST watches the action on a monitor in the trailer, or behind the chutes.
"The video feed is very valuable to manage the arena." Foster said. "We are able to watch replays and get a better sense of what happens."