Brain rat­tle from rid­ing a con­cus­sion con­cern for jock­eys

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SPORT - DAVID RI CCI O

CON­CUS­SIONS caused by the rat­tling of jock­eys’ brains while rid­ing is set to be ex­am­ined and tracked by the same neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist who aims to change rugby league play­ers’ lives.

The Na­tional Jock­eys’ Trust is set to ad­vance dis­cus­sions with Aus­tralia’s only con­cus­sion clinic in New­cas­tle, by tour­ing the fa­cil­ity where Dr An­drew Gard­ner and Pro­fes­sor Christoper Levi have as­sessed 150 ath­letes. Gard­ner is in the US com­par­ing con­cus­sion data from rugby league play­ers with their NFL coun­ter­parts.

Sim­i­lar anal­y­sis would be ob­tained from jock­eys, who suf­fer sig­nif­i­cant con­cus­sion is­sues. Race falls are one of the most com­mon causes of con­cus­sion for jock­eys. How­ever, NJT man­ager Bob Why­burn said the sim­ple act of rid­ing was also a ma­jor cause for alarm.

“We’re re­ally con­cerned about con­cus­sion,’’ Why­burn said. “Not just fall­ing off and hit­ting your head, but the ac­tion of rid­ing a horse — it rat­tles the brain. I’m go­ing to go to New­cas­tle and meet with some peo­ple there and talk to them about what they’re do­ing with con­cus­sion in sport and whether we can part­ner with them and do some case stud­ies.

“If we can get younger jock­eys com­ing through and then the doc­tors fol­low­ing them with scans through their lives, that’s the way we need to do it.

“It’s some­thing we’ve been work­ing on, but we’re re­ally go­ing to dou­ble our ef­fort.”

In NSW, rid­ers must pass an an­nual cog­ni­tive test and are re­quired to visit a neu­ro­physi­cian if there are any con­cerns. The con­cus­sion clinic would al­low ev­ery jockey to have their con- cus­sion data, and the many vari­ables which make up a per­son’s health on file.

Cham­pion jock­eys Hugh Bow­man, Michelle Payne and Dale Spriggs have all re­cently bat­tled with con­cus­sion cases.

So se­vere was Payne’s con­cus­sion af­ter a fall in 2016 that she had to Google her name to re­mind her­self that she had be­come the first fe­male jockey to win the Mel­bourne Cup only seven months ear­lier.

Michelle Payne af­ter a fall at Mil­dura in 2016.

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