Jockey recordkeeping system, industry meetings discussed in Delaware

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Aug. 23, 2019

Delaware and Maryland are in the process of developing a secure information system for jockey medical records and history with a goal of having it used in multiple jurisdictions.

Robert Colton, director of the Delaware Jockeys Association, told the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission Aug. 22 that he has been working with Dr. Kelly Ryan—a MedStar Health physician who is part of the Horsemen’s Health System at Maryland racetracks—on a “communications program that can be used internally and track to track.” Maryland and Delaware have been at the forefront of efforts to establish baseline concussion testing and return-to-ride protocol for jockeys.

The system would have five access levels to protect personal information, Colton said. For instance, only medical professionals could access a jockey’s medical information, while racing stewards would have access to information that could help them “flag” riders who may have fallen from a horse and require an examination before returning to action.

The plan is to test the system in Delaware, Maryland and at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia, all of which have concussion protocol. In Delaware, a certified athletic trainer from Premier Physical Therapy and Sports Performance with the ability to treat and evaluate riding injuries is on hand on live racing days; in Maryland, MedStar sports medicine physicians are on site every racing day; and at Charles Town, emergency medical services personnel are the initial contact.

Ryan, in follow-up comments, said she has identified HeadCheck, a web-based and mobile concussion-management program used by athletes in other sports. The program includes an app that can be used by jockeys to send messages, store emergency contact information, and input any forms or data.

“If a jockey has a fall a concussion test shows symptoms of concussion, you can ‘red flag’ if there is enough concern the jockey should be re-evaluated,” Ryan said. “We’re also trying to have an updated injury form created from the European concussion consensus statement to make it consistent.

“The system will be compliant with the (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and it will be possible to automatically send waiver forms for jockeys to sign. Once we agree to do the trial, it could be set up to begin as soon as Sept. 15.”

Colton and Ryan said at the outset, the cost for the system would be $20 per year per jockey, and it could drop to $10 with more participation from other jurisdictions. He said he would ask the Delaware Jockeys Health and Welfare Fund to support the program, while Ryan has discussed it with the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which partners with the Maryland Jockey Club on the Horsemen’s Health System.

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Also during the Aug. 22 meeting, DTRC Chairman Duncan Patterson reviewed a series of recent meetings in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., including the Association of Racing Commissioners International summer session and the Jockey Club Round Table conference.

Patterson said the “most significant” development involved a meeting of Jockey Club Chairman Stuart Janney III, Jockey Club Chief Operating Officer Jim Gagliano and various industry representatives regarding the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019, proposed bans or phase-outs of race-day Lasix by various racetracks, and the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s proposed role in Thoroughbred racing via the federal bill.

The private meeting was held before the Aug. 11 Round Table, at which The Jockey Club spent more than an hour advocating for the federal legislation. There was no mention at the conference that multiple industry organizations have been meeting to discuss alternatives that could have broader industry support.

“The meeting was not for the purpose of coming to any conclusions or decisions but rather to open the lines of communication,” said Patterson, an ex-officio member of the ARCI Board of Directors. “They voiced their concerns and we voiced our concerns. The Jockey Club seems receptive to some sort of compromise—what that would be, I don’t have a clue. But everybody in the room was aware we have to do something.”

“Racing has its challenges and is jeopardized in some jurisdictions such as California,” Patterson said in reference to a series of catastrophic injuries during the Santa Anita Park winter-spring meet that resulted in increased media coverage, attacks from animal rights groups and various reforms including a call for bans on Lasix and use of the riding crop for encouragement. “But Lasix and the riding crop do not cause breakdowns. So the problem is whatever we do (in that regard) will not prevent catastrophic breakdowns.”

At the Round Table conference, the Jockey Club announced it plans to advocate for a ban on use of the riding crop for encouragement, a regulation only Norway has on the books. The decision was based in part on “consumer research.”

Mindy Coleman, counsel for the Jockeys’ Guild, was on hand at the DTRC meeting and was asked by the commission if the organization had a comment on the call for a ban on use of the crop for encouragement.

“We were not aware the Jockey Club was going to make an announcement, and as such we’ve had no board meeting to come up with a formal opinion,” Coleman said. “We were caught off guard by the recommendation of the Jockey Club. A proposal in California (to greatly restrict use of the riding crop) has not yet been published for public comment, so they haven’t begun the legislative steps there yet.”

The California proposals on the riding crop and race-day Lasix stemmed from the run of fatalities in racing and training at Santa Anita, but the industry has widely suggested neither played a role, were more about alleged public perception, and were perhaps used to deflect from the actual causes of the breakdowns. Other reforms regarding increased pre-race scrutiny of horses and bringing California in line with other jurisdictions—corticosteroids were permitted three days before a race rather than the seven or 14 days employed elsewhere in the United States—were considered of value.

Another reform—banning use of all non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs within 48 hours of a race—was already in place in New York. The National Uniform Medication Program has the cut-off for phenylbutazone at 24 hours, but Patterson and others have suggested change is coming in light of approval by the ARCI Board of Directors of a model rule that calls for a 48-hour cut-off.

“There is a strong chance it will be approved,” Patterson said, noting veterinarians and stewards have said administering Bute in even small doses can impact the effectiveness of pre-race exams.