Accident puts polo hats back in the spotlight

  • serious head injury to a popular polo player has put headgear back in the spotlight and lead to calls for a blanket rule to be introduced by the sport’s governing body.

    Brazilian Juracy Santos, a member of Guards polo club, is in a coma after suffering critical head injuries in a fall last week (8 July).

    His fall has prompted H&H polo reporter Aurora Eastwood to start a campaign to get the Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA) to introduce a compulsory safety hat rule.

    Although safety hats are on the market, most players opt to wear “low profile” helmets with a single strap rather than a three-point-harness. Tests carried out by the HPA in 2008 revealed that these popular hats provided very poor safety levels.

    “It needed someone to stand up and say something,” Aurora said. “The sport has a responsibility to keep its members safe.

    “Juracy is one of the most liked players. He was just wearing a low profile hat and now he is in a coma.

    “We have to keep putting pressure on the HPA.”

    This is the second serious high profile head injury in polo this year. Former 10-goaler Carlos Gracida died from head injuries sustained in a freak accident during a match in February.

    A rule would bring the HPA in line with other equestrian bodies. Safety hats are compulsory for all British Showjumping competitors; British Dressage, except for advanced and above; and for Britsh Eventing, except for dressage and prize-giving at intermediate championships and above. Safety hats are already compulsory for polo in the Pony Club.

    Six-goaler George Meyrick, 26, told H&H that he is thinking about changing his type of hat as a result of Juracy’s accident.

    It’s slowly beginning to change,” said George. “You are starting to see more people wearing one, and I will be in the near future.”

    The HPA’s David Woodd said that in light of the accident the organisation would be “revisiting the topic”.

    “It is not straightforward to introduce a rule, but we will be looking into it,” he said.

    “People have to have time to adjust and the manufacturers need time to develop a better product.”

    To follow or support the campaign on twitter use hashtag #saferpolo or sign a petition here

    This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (17 July, 2014)

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