Racing to improve concussion care for jockeys

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  • Repeat tests and active rehabilitation are among the new concussion protocols to be introduced by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).

    The enhancements to the BHA’s rules will come into force on 1 August.

    The aim is to ensure riders are better protected and prevented from riding while they have a concussive injury.

    Dr Jerry Hill, the BHA’s chief medical adviser, said it is “essential” that a sport should not be complacent about the management of such a serious issue as concussion.

    “For some time British racing has been recognised as pioneers when it comes to concussion management, as you would expect from a sport which carries an above average risk of concussion injury,” he said.

    “It is my intention that in British racing we provide our jockey athletes with the appropriate guidance, treatment and care.

    “This is why I am personally putting a renewed focus on the support these athletes receive in injury management as well as wellbeing, nutrition and mental health.”

    This follows a review of the existing concussion management protocols led by Dr Hill, in consultation with relevant stakeholders such as the Professional Jockeys Association.

    The updated protocols include an extension of the course-side screening test to ensure all riders involved in a fall are assessed with symptom scores, balance and short and long-term memory tests — previously only memory was tested.

    Doctors will also be allowed to test riders involved in heavy falls a second time, around 25-30 minutes after the initial test, even if the rider passed the initial screening. This is to help detect late-onset concussions.

    As well as this, the BHA is involving other members of racecourse teams to encourage potentially concussed jockeys to attend testing and retesting with the on-site medics.

    Further research and development of an active rehabilitation programme and enhancing baseline testing are also part of the updates.

    The Injured Jockeys Fund’s almoners will be included in the baseline testing process to help make it more convenient for riders.

    “The enhancements to our concussion management protocols will help reduce the risk of jockeys continuing to ride while suffering from a concussion,” added Dr Hill.

    “It will also aid their safe return to riding following a concussion injury.”

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    More improvements planned for the “near future” include a rewrite of head injury guidelines given to jockeys plus enhancements to the helmet bounty system.

    The BHA is also working on an education programme for anyone working within racing on how to diagnose concussion and the risks of riding with a head injury.

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