Agent Frankie Douglas, a former jockey, recalls he had a head injury while riding at Timonium in 1997. When he finally came back to riding, eight months later, it was with a doctor’s OK, but he adds “even then, it wasn’t a good idea.”
When Douglas, now 55, rode, there were no restrictions for concussions.
“If my head hurt or my leg hurt I had to ride,” he says. “Now, MedStar pays more attention to the riders than before. They take you off the horses until you do all the [protocols]. If you are not OK, they won’t let you ride. This is very, very good.
“Jockeys are athletes and need to be taken care of. . . Head injuries, we should take all the precautions necessary . . . It is the right thing to do.”
Last October, Maryland became the first state in the country to establish a protocol for concussions at its thoroughbred racetracks when the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Maryland Jockey Club launched the Horsemen’s Health System in conjunction with MedStar Sports Medicine.
But because there had – fortunately – been no head injury incidents until mid-April, jockeys and other horsemen were caught by surprise when a jockey, after being thrown from his mount and hitting his head, was told he would not be riding until he completed the protocol.
Any jockey who sustains a head trauma or suspected head trauma and exhibits any physical, cognitive, emotional or sleep symptoms must wait at least 72 hours and be symptom free before passing through the protocol, which consists of five phases.
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