Rancher loses thumb at rodeo, still picks up four first-place scores

Posted at 6:01 PM, Jan 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-17 18:01:08-05

DENVER -- Life at the National Western Stock Show can be fun. But Justin Johnson is proof life can also be dangerous.

During a recent team roping event, Johnson, a rancher from outside Casper, Wyo., lost his thumb.

"This is probably the No. 1 danger of team roping events is cutting your fingers out," Johnson told KDVR from his hospital room.

Johnson said his thumb got stuck on a saddle horn and his trusty rope quickly became a nasty knife.

"I was not in a panic, I just dallied, a little tug and there goes my thumb flying across the arena," Johnson said.

Johnson's wife was quick to point out he received four first-place scores after losing the thumb.

"These roping kind of injuries are some of the most difficult we deal with," said Dr. David Schnur, a plastic surgeon at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center.

Schnur emphasized these injuries are common in the rodeo world and that he was able to reattach it successfully because the thumb was properly preserved.

While complete recovery is not likely, months of rest will be needed to get Johnson to 80 percent.

"Ranchers and cowboys are always hard because they want to go back to work the minute they get out of the hospital," Schnur said.

As for Johnson, he is grateful for the care he received and is is anxious to get back out there.

"I can't wait to get back," he said.