|Thursday, September 28, 2023
|Contact: Andrew Chesser
|International Conference for the Health, Safety and Welfare of Jockeys Highlights Recent Research
The International Conference for the Health, Safety and Welfare of Jockeys (ICHSWJ) returned Thursday, 28 September at Auteuil Racecourse in Paris, following a hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The ICHSWJ featured presentations and panels on concussions, spinal injuries, and mental health and psychological fitness before concluding with recently retired third-generation jockey Tom Scudamore providing his reflections on the conference.
“The content today from our presenters has been absolutely superb,” said ICHSWJ Chairman Darragh O’Loughlin. “We are very excited to have the return of the International Conference for the Health, Safety and Welfare of Jockeys, albeit in a different format to how it previously existed. The steering committee for this conference is eager that, rather than being a standalone event that occurs periodically, it becomes more of a forum for sharing of experiences, sharing of information, and sharing of best practices.”
Presenter Tom Stanley served as the moderator of the conference, which began with a presentation on management of concussion by Dr. Jerry Hill, Chief Medical Adviser, British Horseracing Authority (BHA), and Dr. Jennifer Pugh, Chief Medical Officer, Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB).
Hill began the panel with a review of the recent Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport from the 6th International Conference on Concussion in Sport, which was held in October 2022, and what it means for horseracing.
“I think the benefit of the statement is that it actually gives you a road map,” said Hill. “We need to make sure that everyone working in our sport has an awareness of concussion. It is not the doctor’s job alone.
“We believe there should be education for all, not just the jockeys. It is the medical staff, the valets, the stewards. We also need to make sure racing’s processes are organised to support assessment, diagnosis, rehabilitation, and return. There are many racing jurisdictions, and there are many jockeys who fall and who get concussed. Let’s get that data together.”
Pugh then spoke on several specific points, including ways to reduce concussion rates with a look at prevention strategies, how to determine when it is time to remove a jockey from competition, and the importance of re-evaluation, rest and exercise, referral for extended care, rehabilitation, and recovery.
“Every word is very important in the consensus statement,” said Pugh. “For horse racing, which part is most important probably depends on where each jurisdiction is in their journey. It is really important we get the rules correct for racing.”
Daloni Lucas, PhD Candidate at the Centre for Health, and Injury & Illness Prevention in Sport (CHi2PS), University of Bath, then presented the second session via video, and she focused on the exploration and prevention of spinal injuries to jockeys.
For her analysis, Lucas discussed four studies in this area: development and validation of a video analysis framework in horse racing; characterisation of spinal injury events in horse racing; exploring the current use of safety wear in horse racing; and understanding the biomechanical interaction between a jockey and protective garments.
“There is a knowledge gap, and jockeys do need some education to better understand the role of their safety wear,” said Lucas. “Educating jockeys about what their safety wear is for and what it is protecting them from, if we can get them on board, they are going to be more compliant and hopefully we will see racing across all jurisdictions will be safer. I do think we are seeing a new wave of jockeys coming through who are very much looking at the next thing in technology.”
The afternoon session featured a panel discussion on the importance of mental health and the psychological fitness of riders. Participants included Professor Duncan Law, Consultant Clinical Psychologists, Changing Minds UK; Karen Lo, Sports Psychologist, Inner Edge, Hong Kong; and Dr. Ciara Losty, Sports Psychologist, Irish Jockey Pathway.
Lo began the presentation with a discussion on what she has experienced with both apprentice and professional jockeys based in Hong Kong.
“There is a huge stigma in mental health, and that’s no surprise,” said Lo. “Athletes are always seen as superhuman. I always feel that I want to take a preventive approach when it comes to working with athletes. It’s about having the tools to prevent you from going to the other end of the spectrum where mental health challenges start to surface.”
Following Lo’s presentation, Losty turned the focus to the mental wellbeing of female jockeys in particular.
“I think sport is a microcosm of mainstream society,” said Losty. “We have the research that shows that when jockeys disclose, and jockeys share their experiences, it does have a positive ripple effect to other jockeys. The sport and mental health and wellbeing are all mutually interdependent. Let’s move toward supporting the person. Being a jockey is what they do. It is their role and their job. They are people first and athletes second.”
To round out the panel, Law discussed approaches with the Injured Jockeys Fund to provide support in the United Kingdom as well as the mental wellbeing of apprentice and conditional jockeys. He covered four pillars of mental wellbeing strategies: promoting positive mental wellbeing, early identification of need, understanding jockeys’ needs in context, and appropriate and safe responding.
“It is quite clear that these issues are cross countries and cross cultures,” said Law. “They are industry-wide issues, and we need to do a lot of work to address them. We can’t be sure of the exact numbers, but overall, we can be sure that the people coming into racing don’t have the same levels of mental distress as current professionals in the industry. This is anecdotal, but my experience it that the new cohort of jockeys coming into the industry are much more open to talking about mental wellbeing.”
Following these three panel discussions, Scudamore, who is a member of the Steering Committee, gave his viewpoints on the content of the conference and on the work of the ICHSWJ.
“It has been absolutely fascinating,” said Scudamore. “It has been wonderful to see such diverse panels and to get such an insight into what goes on behind the scenes. You can get very insular as a jockey. There are times when you think you are on your own, and I think today has proven we aren’t on our own. We’ve got a lot of people who want to help.”
A video replay of the conference will be available shortly following the event on the IFHA’s YouTube channel.
The IFHA is the global leader for the international sport of Thoroughbred racing, seeking to promote all facets of the worldwide sport; protect the welfare of the equine and human athlete; and protect and grow its global social and economic significance for current and future generations.
Major areas of the IFHA’s activities include:
• Policy development relating to welfare and safety of horses and riders
• International Race Planning and Grading (“black type”)
• World Rankings
• The fight against Equine Prohibited Substances and Practices
• Harmonization of Racing Rules
• Certification of IFHA Reference Labs
• Fostering commercial development of the racing industry globally
The IFHA is a foundation member with Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) of the International Horse Sports Confederation and is affiliated to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH).About ICHSWJ
The ICHSWJ is a committee of the IFHA, and its mission has been to ‘provide a forum to discuss and implement strategies to raise the standards of safety and the standards of care provided to jockeys’ and its vision has been to ‘create a safer and healthier everyday life for jockeys when they participate in the sport.
The ICHSWJ’s stated objectives are as follows:
• Harmonise standards and procedures throughout the world
• Harmonise the collection of injury data
• Provide a forum for the sharing of information
• Share research findings and foster collaboration
• Harmonization of Racing Rules
• Propose strategies to deal with issues on a global basis
• Set-up a more effective communication mechanism between countries
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