Racing authority suggests concussion protocols for jockeys

Published 2:14 pm Thursday, November 2, 2023

By Tom Latek

Kentucky Today

The Lexington-based Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority is going beyond the safety of four-legged animals, introducing U.S. thoroughbred racing’s first-ever recommended national concussion protocol for jockeys.

Under HISA’s Racetrack Safety rules, racetracks are required to implement a concussion protocol for jockeys. HISA’s recommended protocol would become mandatory for all racetracks under HISA’s jurisdiction if the Federal Trade Commission approves the proposed changes to its Racetrack Safety rules submitted last month.

The protocol was developed in consultation with leading experts to protect the health and safety of jockeys, and would bring racing in line with the nation’s other major sports, all of which have uniform concussion management protocols. It includes clear step-by-step instructions for racetrack medical personnel to follow when evaluating and monitoring riders for potential head injuries.

“In a sport like racing where athletes are at high risk for concussion, it’s crucial for every racetrack to have an established concussion protocol in place to respond to head injuries,” said HISA National Medical Director Dr. Peter Hester. “HISA’s national protocol requires prompt and correct care and clear documentation, which are essential to ensuring jockeys have the best opportunity to make a full recovery from a concussion. To prioritize jockey health, HISA strongly encourages racetracks to adopt this protocol now, to help optimize safety throughout the sport.”

The new protocol also incorporates the concussion management platform HEADCHECK into its reporting process. Racetrack medical staff would use HEADCHECK to document medical evaluations, possible concussion symptoms and written releases, permitting a jockey to return to riding after being cleared by a qualified medical provider knowledgeable in concussion management and the skills needed to perform as a jockey. Concussion-related medical records would follow a rider from track to track and ensure continuity of concussion care across the country.

HISA has been working to implement HEADCHECK at racetracks across the country for the last several months.

Jockeys and their families are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with HISA’s national concussion protocol and will be notified via the HISA portal when updates are made to the protocol. Racetracks under HISA’s jurisdiction are encouraged to post a concussion protocol in a prominent place in the jockeys’ quarters.

HISA is working with racetracks to help educate medical staff and riders on the importance of concussion prevention, diagnosis and treatment, including the new national protocol and its requirements.