Concussion protocol approved by MD Racing Commission

Updated: March 28, 2019

Posted: March 25, 2019

The Maryland Racing Commission March 28 approved a regulation that formalizes concussion protocol that has been used at the state’s Thoroughbred racetracks for well over a year.

Maryland has been at the forefront of the issue given the presence of sports medicine professionals on all live racing days. The MedStar Health System doctors are on site at tracks as part of the Horsemen’s Health System, which came about through a partnership of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Maryland Jockey Club.

MedStar provides medical services for a number of regional professional and college teams including the Baltimore Orioles, Baltimore Ravens, Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards.

The concussion language states that a racing association shall:

  • Adopt, have posted, and implement a protocol for education, evaluation, diagnosis, and management of concussion of jockeys which shall be approved by the regulatory authority;
  • Have available a medical professional trained in evaluating and administering the most current Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT); and
  • Establish a return-to-ride guideline in order to clear a jockey who has been concussed, or is believed to have been concussed, once the jockey is declared fit to ride by a medical professional authorized to do so.

The regulation also states that all jockeys must acknowledge in writing that they have been made aware of the concussion protocols in place for the facility at which they are riding.

SCAT is an exam physicians use to determine if a jockey is concussed after a fall. It includes a review of the individual’s history; an evaluation of symptoms, orientation, cognitive skills and ability to concentrate; a balance test; and a neurological exam, said Dr. Kelly Ryan, one of the MedStar physicians in the rotation at MJC tracks.

The West Virginia legislature in early March approved the latest update of Thoroughbred racing rules, which includes similar concussion protocol: evaluation, testing by an authorized professional, and approval to return to ride.

(Laurel Park photo by Tom LaMarra)