Medical Treatment at the Running of the Bulls

Spain’s San Fermin Festival is a centuries-old tradition that has transformed the sleepy village of Pamplona into a world-famous destination each July. People come from far and wide to witness the sometimes bloody spectacle of the daily encierros, or Running of the Bulls.

Running of the Bulls injuries

While bull run fatalities are somewhat rare, injuries are common. Every year during the 9-day festivities, between 50 and 100 people are hurt in the run. Authorities in Navarra have kept logs of every major Running of the Bulls injury since 1980, and data shows that the risk of being harmed has gradually increased over the years.

Most injuries are attributed to falls and tramplings, though gorings are another life-threatening peril that runners face. In the 2019 San Fermin Festival, for example, five people were hospitalized after the opening bull run. Three runners were severely gored in the neck and thigh, requiring surgery, and the other two suffered head injuries, also necessitating emergency medical treatment.

Between 1910 and 2014, 15 runners have been killed in Pamplona by a piercing blow from the bull’s horns.

Medical treatment available for runners

The obvious dangers of running with the bulls do not dissuade eager tourists and adrenaline-seekers from donning a red handkerchief and throwing caution to the wind. On average, about 20,000 people elect to run with Pamplona’s toros each year.

The city’s Red Cross has emergency personnel on-hand to attend to the injured at San Fermin. Bruises, lacerations, and minor injuries are treated on-site, but those who suffer serious harm are transported to the nearest facility, which is the Complejo Hospitalario de Navarra.

Participants can count on immediate medical treatment at the Running of the Bulls, thanks to the Navarra Public Health Service. But foreigners, or runners who are not residents of the Navarra Province, cannot expect a free ride for hospital and medical care expenses after suffering injury. The person’s own medical insurance is expected to cover these expenses.

In situations where the injured runner has no medical insurance or is insolvent, their local embassy may be asked to reimburse the costs of medical treatment.

Insurance policy coverage

Most insurance plans will deny claims based on injuries incurred at the Running of the Bulls, or those sustained in other activities deemed excessively risky or dangerous.