What does the Triple Crown have to do with concussions?
This weekend, millions will be watching as jockey Mike Smith rides Justify in an attempt to win a Triple Crown. However, few are prepared in the event of a head injury on the track.
Unlike the majority of sports these days, horse racing still continues without the protection of a concussion protocol for jockeys, despite a significant risk of falls that could cause a head injury.
In most cases, Dr. Hallie Zwibel, says jockeys just get back on the horse without an evaluation after a fall or head injury. Dr. Zwibel is a physician and director of the Center for Sports Medicine at New York Institute of Technology. He says jockeys may even ignore significant symptoms like dizziness, confusion, and headaches.
Unfortunately, as we now know, ignoring the signs of a head injury puts a person at significant risk of more severe brain damage or life-threatening follow-up injury.
The horseracing world was reminded of this risk just this year when a veteran jockey died following injuries from a headfirst fall in March. Still, they have enacted no new rules to protect riders from brain injury.
“Without evaluation and treatment after a fall, riders who get back on the horse right away are gambling with their health,” said Dr. Zwibel in a press release. “Clear guidelines need to be established to prevent these athletes from further aggravating an injury and inflicting a lifetime of neurodegenerative disease.”
Rather than wait for U.S. horseracing to come up with a policy on their own, Dr. Zwibel is taking action. He is teaming up with several permanently injured professional jockeys and The Jockey’s Guild, an advocacy association, to develop “return to ride” regulations that would establish what to do when a jockey is injured.
The plan won’t be established by this weekend when Mike Smith risks head injury to win a historic accomplishment, but Dr. Zwibel believes it is essential that horseracing act quickly to institute guidelines before another racer loses his life to head trauma.