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OBJECTIVE: To determine if an unselected group of rodeo athletes would report a more benign outcome to their motor vehicle whiplash injuries than a group of spectators at rodeo events. METHODS: This survey compares the self-reported outcome of motor vehicle collision whiplash injuries (neck and/or back sprain) in rodeo athletes and spectators attending rodeo events. Subjects were asked to recall motor vehicle collision experiences, the type of vehicle they were in, the presence of symptoms as a result, and outcomes for those symptoms. RESULTS: Forty-seven percent of rodeo athletes and 59% of spectators recalled being in a motor vehicle collision. A total of 33% of rodeo athletes who had collisions recalled acute symptoms they associated with the collision compared to a recall of symptoms in 61% of spectators who had collisions. Vehicle types during collisions and occupation type at time of the survey were the same for both groups. Duration of symptoms, however, was 30 days (+/- 14 days) in rodeo athletes and 73 days (+/- 61 days) in spectators. None of the rodeo athletes recalled symptoms lasting for more than 60 days compared to 15% of spectators who had symptoms more than 60 days. Rodeo athletes took no more than 3 weeks off work, whereas among spectators, it was common to take more than 6 weeks off. CONCLUSION: Rodeo athletes appear to be in at least as many motor vehicle collisions as rodeo spectators, and 33% suffered the acute whiplash syndrome. Rodeo athletes appear, however, to be more resistant than spectators to developing prolonged pain and disability.