Man seriously injured in Madrid’s ‘Running of the Ball’ festival that dropped bulls as too dangerous

A Spanish village that replaced Pamplona-style bull running in the streets with an animal cruelty-free alternative using gigantic plastic resin balls is considering forcing participants to use helmets after a man was hospitalized with a severe head injury during this year’s run.

The 29-year-old man remains in hospital in Madrid after being helicopter-lifted out of the mountain village of Mataelpino, where he was crushed against a metal barrier during Sunday’s ball running.

The accident comes one year after another man was left in a coma and another suffered three broken ribs after similar incidents during the village’s 2017 festival.

“We have talked to some brands to try to get sponsorship for the use of helmets,” Javier de los Nietos, the mayor of Mataelpino, told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

“We haven’t done it earlier because we didn’t want people to be overconfident and think that nothing will happen if the ball hits them,” he added.

The resin ball, this year reported to weigh around 250 kilograms, careers down the steep streets of the village with metal barriers erected to keep it rolling along the route.

Participants are given safety instructions, and warned against taking a direct hit. “If there is no escape, it’s better to lie down and let the ball run over you,” the runners are told before starting.

Witnesses of Sunday’s run said the injured man “froze” as the ball approached him at the end of the route, crushing him against a safety barrier.

“People who are used to bulls know that they can’t just stand still in front of them because they could be gored. But with the ball some people think that nothing will happen to them, but this is not the case. If they get a direct hit, it can be serious,” the mayor said, adding that another option being considered was to pad the metal barriers.

Hundreds of daredevils travel to Mataelpino for the ball running, while children also take part in a special event on the Saturday with a much smaller ball.

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