NY moves rule on concussion protocol, rider health and safety

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Sept 17, 2019

New York is moving forward with official protocol that would set health and fitness standards—including baseline concussion testing and a mandatory return-to-ride program—for all jockeys, exercise riders and outriders in Thoroughbred and Steeplechase racing.

The New York State Gaming Commission Sept. 17 approved the rulemaking proposal, which now goes out for public comment. Similar procedures are in place in Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia, where concussion protocol is the focal point; the rule proposed in New York is more detailed in regard to health requirements.

“Several aspects of licensure that are currently applied to riders will be made explicit, including demonstrating familiarity with horse care and general horsemanship and not permitting an injured or sick person to return to work without appropriate clearance,” said Ronald Ochrym, Director of the NYSGC Division of Horse Racing and Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

The proposal includes a “fitness component,” Ochrym said, that details medical issues that must be disclosed and subjected to examination before a rider can be licensed in New York. The information must be recorded in a health information database system and riders would have to carry medical information cards.

“A key aspect of the rulemaking is to require every rider to document their baseline concussive status, to undergo another Sports Concussive Assessment Tool examination after any fall from a horse or possible head injury, and to make a permanent record of future examinations,” Ochrym said in a report to the NYSGC. “The proposal also creates a mandatory ‘fitness to return to ride’ program to require an appropriate medical examination and clearance before a rider may return to riding after a concussion or other significant medical issue.”

The proposed rule notes that stewards would be able to require a rider to be re-examined at any time and could refuse to allow a rider to mount a horse without having passed the examination.