BHA reviews concussion management protocols

21 Jan 2016 Education/Training Welfare
  • BHA welcomes Concussion in Sport project
  • Work already underway to ensure British Racing’s concussion management protocols remain cutting edge
  • Review will focus assessment and treatment on-course, return to competition protocols and education of participants

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has today welcomed the launch of the International Concussion and Head Injury Research Foundation “ICHIRF” and its research project, Concussion in Sport (

At the same time the BHA has announced that it is already reviewing its own concussion management and education protocols to ensure that horseracing remains at the forefront of concussion diagnosis, treatment and management in sport.

For many years British Racing has been viewed as being pioneers in the field of ‘pitchside’ concussion management and treatment, and in post-concussion management and controls on return to competition. Protocols implemented in 2003 by Dr Michael Turner made Racing in Britain the first non-team sport to operate a standardised concussion management program in the World.

In order to ensure that Racing in Britain remains at the forefront of concussion management the BHA has recently begun the process of reviewing these protocols, in conjunction with the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA), to ensure they reflect advances in medical science and best practices.

The review will look at both the racecourse assessment and treatment practices and return-to-riding protocols, as well as focusing on education to the sport’s participants about the importance of concussion management, be it on a racecourse or at the yard.

Dr Jerry Hill, Chief Medical Adviser for the BHA, said:

“Racing has, for many years, been recognised as being ahead of the curve when it comes to concussion management, however we cannot be complacent. We are a sport that carries an above average risk of concussion and as science develops so must our policies towards its diagnosis, treatment and care. For this reason we are currently reviewing our concussion protocols to ensure they remain amongst the most comprehensive and rigorous in British and World sport.

“This review will focus not only on the day-to-day treatment of concussion, but also, crucially, the education of our participants about the importance of managing concussion properly. We need to ensure that everyone within the sport is aware of the signs of concussion and also the risks associated with competing while suffering from concussion.

“One of the risks associated with repeated concussion may be an impact on health in later life, however the existing medical science is not definitive on this point. This is why the Concussion in Sport project is extremely important, not only for those involved in horseracing but indeed all sportsmen and women. We look forward to working with Dr Turner and his team on this project.”


Notes to Editors

1. Racing has an advantage over other sports as the index event is clearer (i.e. a fall) than say in Rugby where the injury may be hidden in the scrum.

Following a fall all Jockeys have to be assessed on the racecourse and if there is any suspicion of concussion undergo a sport-specific screening test of short and long term memory. If the diagnosis is not clear at that point a longer assessment can be undertaken with further questions and tests of neurological function including balance, memory and mental processing. Those with a positive test for concussion will be stood down from riding and either be sent to hospital, particularly if any other injuries are present, or allowed home accompanied by a responsible adult with specific follow up instructions in writing. They are advised not to drive.

If symptoms are then recognised later, after the initial assessment, jockeys will undergo further assessment.

2. All jockeys are required to undergo baseline neuro-psychological screening at one of six regional centres prior to the granting of a licence. Following a concussive incident, a rider is immediately stood down for a minimum of six days. Following this stand down period a specialist reassesses the rider and a comparison is made of his/her repeat neuro-psychological tests against the baseline values. Only when these have returned to normal is the jockey allowed to return to race riding.