- Two-year rehabilitation completed with assistance from Injured Jockeys Fund
- Rigorous medical assessments successfully passed before being relicensed
- Licence issued 704 days after enduring life-threatening injury in fall at Perth racecourse
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has today confirmed that 704 days after suffering a serious injury in a fall at Perth Racecourse, and following an extensive period of rehabilitation and a rigorous medical assessment procedure, Brian Toomey has been relicensed as a professional jockey.
In the incident on 4 July 2013 Brian received serious head injuries which at the time were described as ‘life threatening’. Following immediate care on the track by Racecourse Medical Officers he was placed in an induced coma in the high dependency unit of Ninewells Hospital in Dundee for two weeks, and had surgery to reduce swelling on his brain, including the removal of part of his skull. He remained in hospital for 157 nights before beginning his long road to recovery.
Before being granted his licence, Brian, 26, had to meet the medical criteria for fitness to return to race riding which assess his fitness to ride, ability to control a horse safely and the risk of further injury if he were to fall. In Brian’s case this included tests of hearing and vision, physiotherapy assessments and appointments with and reports from Consultants in Neuropsychology, Neurology and two Neurosurgeons. He also required references from licensed persons.
Brian then had to undergo a full medical assessment by the BHA Chief Medical Adviser Dr Jerry Hill, which assessed not only his physical health but also his mental functions. Following the assessment, and taking into account the opinions of his specialists, Brian was passed as medically fit to ride by Dr Hill.
Once the medical was completed Brian was still required to show his physical fitness and capability to ride in a series of tests held at the British Racing School (BRS) and Northern Racing College (NRC), which he completed successfully – and to the standard expected of every professional jockey – before being issued his licence.
Dr Jerry Hill, Chief Medical Adviser for the BHA, said:
“The safety of our competitors is paramount in British Horseracing and we have a duty as far as is possible to ensure any returning jockey is fit to safely control his horse and that he and his family understands the risks that he or she may be taking in race riding. Brian has shown through his medical assessments and physical tests that he is fit to ride again.
“For the purposes of Brian’s application we treated him in the same manner that we would any other rider, in terms of that the bar was set at the same level we expect of all professional jockeys. No allowances were made for his injuries and the length of his absence from the sport, which makes all the more remarkable the scale of his recovery.
“The fact that Brian is still alive is a testament to the first class medical care which exists on British racecourses. It is very likely that the team of doctors at Perth, with their rapid and decisive response, saved Brian’s life. To now be returning to ride again in Britain two years on, and having met all of the demanding criteria required of him to do so, is a quite remarkable story and an illustration of his determination and bravery.”
During his rehabilitation Brian spent periods riding out for trainers such as Nigel Twiston-Davies, Willie Mullins, Enda Bolger and Jonjo O’Neill, as well as a significant period of time at Oaksey House under the care of the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF).
Brian Toomey said:
“It’s been a long road back but the one thing that has driven me throughout my recovery, and the main thing that has kept me going, was a desire to be a jockey again, and I am delighted that I’ve been cleared to ride by Dr Hill.
“Following the accident, the paramedics said that I was dead for six seconds, but they managed to resuscitate me. Then when I made it to the hospital they thought that I only had a 3% chance of survival. Now here I am, two years on, ready to race ride again.
“I know there will be people who will say I’m mad to want to come back but it’s been my dream since I was a boy to be a jockey and it’s a job and life I love, and I was absolutely determined that, if I couldn’t make it back, it wouldn’t be through a lack of effort on my part.
“I have a huge list of people I want to thank, and it would be impossible to name all of those that have helped and supported me. However, in particular I’d like to thank the medical team at Perth, whose initial treatment probably saved my life. I’d also like to thank everyone at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, Professor Kane, the IJF, PJA and Dr Philip Pritchard, who helped me obtain the reports for my application. Also, of course, my friends and family. I couldn’t have done this without any of these people. I am so grateful to them all.
“Just in surviving and overcoming all that I have been through I feel I have won the biggest and most important race of my life, and anything else is a bonus. I’m going to take my time and work on my fitness before taking my first ride. That’s the next target to aim for and I’ll give it my all to get there.
“I hope what I’ve been through can serve as an inspiration for others who injure themselves and are told that they might never return to doing what they love. Work hard and never give up and you just never know what could happen.”
Professor Phil Kane, Chief of Service for Neurosciences at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“Brian’s return to horse racing is absolutely incredible. Most of the praise has to go to Brian himself and his self-motivation to achieve this goal of getting back in the saddle and compete again after his horrendous fall and injury.
“I must also thank the significant work carried out by the neuro-rehabilitation team at The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and the Injured Jockeys Association. To see and to have been part of Brian’s recovery has been extremely satisfying for me and I wish him well in the future.”
Notes to editors:
1. Brian Toomey is available for interview and further comment today. Please contact Robin Mounsey on 0207 152 0048 to arrange.
2. The horse involved in the fall with Brian at Perth in July 2013 is called Solway Dandy, trained by Lisa Harrison. He has won both of his last two races, both at Perth racecourse in April and May 2015.
3. More information about the Injured Jockeys Fund and Oaksey House, who assisted with Toomey’s rehabilitation, can be found here: http://www.injuredjockeys.co.uk/.
4. Details of the Fitness test undertaken by jockeys as part of the licensing procedure can be found here: http://brs.org.uk/courses-and-training/fitness-test/.