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Concussion management protocol for horse jockeys is on its way

Kentucky and the Jockeys' Guild have teamed up to study concussions in horse jockeys.

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Concussions have never been more prominent in professional sports. Across the NBA, NFL, NHL and most professional leagues, concussion protocol is a standard for its athletes.

Thanks to a recent partnership between the University of Kentucky and the Jockeys’ Guild, concussion protocol development will be in full effect for horse jockeys. The partnership, announced Thursday, will be a “three-year pilot study supported by a broad cross sectional of thoroughbred organizations, designed to evolve into the fire comprehensive concussion management protocol for jockeys,” according to

The director of the graduate athletic training program and a professor in the UK College of Health and Sciences, Dr. Carl Mattacola, will oversee the study of all five of Kentucky’s Thoroughbred racetracks. The group plans to begin in the summer, and it will work to develop and test the protocol as quickly as possible.

The jockeys will undergo a sport concussion assessment tool (SCAT 3) to develop a baseline test score. If the jockeys fall, their pre- and post-test responses will be compared and evaluated by a specialized concussion health care expert.

“We want to give the jockeys who suffer head injuries the best science has to offer, and an important first step towards that goal is to generate data from which an appropriate management protocol can be developed,” said Mattacola. “This project will leverage the full resources and knowledge base of UK’s Sports Medicine Research Institute and the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center to help create the first national protocol for concussion management in jockeys.”

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This concussion assessment tool is much like the advanced sports concussion platform, XLNTbrain Sport, which was brought to the high school sporting scene by the Spotsylvania County school system in Virginia. The system can be operated online, as well as through mobile devices acting as a pre- and post-test concussion recognizer.

Concussion protocol is stepping up across the sporting world as a whole at all levels.

The NFL adopted a new rule last off-season that allows certified athletic trainers the ability to contact the side judge from the booth and stop the play in order to help a concussed player receive medical treatment. The medical trainer is the “watch dog,” of the game and speaks directly with official-to-official communication in order to stop play.

We should consider these watch dogs “an athlete’s best friend.”

As other sports developed their concussion protocols, horse racing got into the mix and acted fast. “The pilot study and resulting concussion management protocol will finally bridge the gap that exists between horse racing and other major sports to further protect our human athletes,” said Terry Meyocks, national manager of the Jockeys’ Guild. “We would like to thank all of the industry organizations that contributed to this important initiative.”

All jockeys will have a profile that will store their medical information and serve as the database for the study operating through the Jockey Health Information System. As the world of sport develops, horse racing is working towards following the trend of protecting and realizing concussion protocol for its jockeys and their safety.