MD signs agreement with HeadCheck for injury-tracking system for jockeys

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Dec. 6, 2019

MedStar Health and the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association have announced a new partnership with software company HeadCheck Health to launch an industry-specific electronic injury-tracking system with a focus on optimizing concussion safety and care at racetracks.

To improve the level of care jockeys receive, the MedStar Sports Medicine Team used its experience with professional sports teams to create, in conjunction with the MTHA and Maryland Jockey Club, the Maryland Horsemen’s Health System, which includes the development and implementation of a sport-specific concussion protocol and return-to-ride protocol for any jockey that sustains a suspected concussion.

With the expertise and guidance of MedStar, the MTHA, and others, HeadCheck Health created an electronic injury-tracking system focused on addressing the unique challenges of implementing and mandating concussion protocols at racetracks. A secure HIPAA-compliant system is designed to allow for clear and immediate communication of suspected injuries and rider status to help ensure that all riders receive appropriate care before returning to ride.

The system was approved by all parties the week of Thanksgiving and is now in use in Maryland, said Dr. Kelly Ryan, a MedStar physician who staffs the Horsemen’s Health System at Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course and the Maryland State Fair at Timonium along with four other sports medicine physicians.

“The business agreements were signed and we’re now working on getting jockeys into the system,” Ryan said Dec. 6. “The important thing about this system is it was created by medical professionals who have been leaders in the sports medicine world and the racing industry. The system will be integral in advancing the safety protocols in this sport like other professional and college sports.”

Jockey-related safety protocols and data collection are part of the Mid-Atlantic Strategic Plan to Reduce Equine Fatalities. Ryan said Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races has expressed interested in the HeadCheck Health System, and Delaware Park, which worked with Maryland to develop concussion protocol, will employ the system when it reopens for live racing in the spring of 2020.

“We don’t want to have a system that’s not going to work, so we’re starting in Maryland on a trial-and-error basis,” Ryan said. “MedStar is closely affiliated with Laurel, so it makes sense to start here. We share riders with Delaware and Charles Town, and at Charles Town we’ll be able test this program against racetracks that don’t have the same resources we have in Maryland.

“Implementing this has been more difficult than we thought because there is no centralized (information) system. We’ll be trying to help other racetracks as we move forward, but it’s important to note this requires on-the-ground clinical management. We work at the racetrack and see the jockeys every day.”

In the case of a suspected concussion, racetrack staff can now report the incidents and collect important information to help medical professionals make more evidence-informed decisions. Racetracks will have high-level access to monitor the progress of each injured rider and the system can be effectively adapted to the specific resources of each racetrack.

The HeadCheck Health app will allow for organized collection of data and greatly improve communication among jurisdictions, said Eric VanderHelm, project lead for HeadCheck Health.

“We are very excited to be working with some of the most experienced and knowledgeable minds in the industry to develop a system specific to horse racing,” VanderHelm said. “We will continue to quickly iterate and update the system based on feedback and data analysis to make sure riders can receive the care they deserve.”

The HeadCheck program provides the following:

• Real-time injury, incident and accident reporting for racing regulators and medical staff with the ability to instantly remove and return jockeys to riding;

• Managing physical, medical clearance and policy consent forms;

• Emergency contact information;

• A mobile app for healthcare professionals to run baseline and post-injury concussion assessments per your protocol. Tests can be run both on and offline;

• Monitoring jockey injury and recovery progress;

• A customized, integrated and interactive return-to-ride module for guiding jockeys back to health;

• A web portal for staff management and improved communication;

• Injury, incident and accident reporting for safety staff;

• Form and document management;

• Concussion education and awareness materials;

• The ability to instantly share password-protected test results and notes with authorized individuals through the mobile app or web panel.

The program operates with multiple “access levels” depending on the need for information: Jockeys, the clerk of scales, EMS providers, athletic trainers, medical directors and physicians, and the administrators of the program.

HeadCheck Health said organizations such as the Canadian Football League, Trek Factory Racing, the Canadian Junior Hockey League, Eastern Washington University, and Volleyball Canada use its system to improve communication, advance athlete recovery, and to optimize care.