HISA, Jockeys' Guild To Implement New Jockey Wellness Initiatives

Earle Mack | Horsephotos

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) and the Jockeys' Guild have announced that they have created a Steering Committee to recommend and develop programming in support of the mental health and wellness of jockeys. The announcement comes on the heels of a symposium held last week in Saratoga.

The Steering Committee will be co-chaired by Ambassador Earle Mack, a businessman, philanthropist, former U.S. Ambassador to Finland and Thoroughbred owner and breeder, and Dr. Yuval Neria, a professor of Clinical Medical Psychology at Columbia University Medical Center and Director of Trauma and PTSD at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Data recently collected by a HISA and Jockeys' Guild-commissioned survey, as well as other independent research, will be used to develop specific guidelines to better support and protect rider mental wellness.

“We salute HISA and the Jockeys' Guild for initiating this very important dialogue regarding the mental health and welfare of our beloved jockeys,” said Mack. “Despite my decades of experience in the industry, I was not fully aware of the mental health challenges our professional riders experience until today. Raising awareness is critical, but taking concrete steps to seek out and implement effective solutions for our riders' mental health concerns is imperative–not tomorrow, but today. Jockeys give their all to our horses every time they step on to the track. Let's afford them the care they deserve in return.”

“Jockeys in the exhilarating and sometimes dangerous sport of horseracing are repeatedly exposed to stress and trauma,” said Dr. Neria. “Physical injuries and concussions, coupled with hunger and lack of nutrients associated with weight management, place the rider at high risk for severe mental health problems, including depression, PTSD and addictions.”

Dr. Neria suggested that the industry work towards establishing a national evaluation and treatment center that can comprehensively address these very real and concerning issues.

Last week's symposium was hosted by retired jockey and noted TV personality Donna Brothers who led a panel discussion that included Eurico Rosa da Silva, jockey Trevor McCarthy and FOX Sports'/NYRA's Richard Migliore in addition to Dr. Neria. Attendees also heard from HISA CEO Lisa Lazarua and Jockeys' Guild President and CEO Terry Meyocks.

“The Jockeys' Guild appreciates all of the input and interest by industry participants to address jockeys' mental health and wellness,” said Meyocks. “The Guild has long advocated for the industry to recognize the stress and everyday challenges jockeys face. The Guild looks forward to partnering with HISA in the formation of the Steering Committee to develop recommendations and programs which will demonstrate that we as an industry are able to support not only the jockeys but their family members as well and eventually all others in our industry.”

Added Lazarus: “As Thoroughbred racing's national safety regulator, HISA is deeply committed to safeguarding the mental and physical wellbeing of jockeys and riders across the country. We owe it to these athletes, who dedicate so much of their time and talent to racing, to do everything we can to support them– including by mitigating mental stress factors as well as the risk of injury and chronic health issues.”

HISA will work with HEADCHECK Health, a digital concussion protocol management platform, to allow racetrack personnel to use data-driven insights to improve the care they provide riders with a suspected concussion. Through the HEADCHECK platform, riders will gain access to a new, secure system to store their medical records, which will be easily available to physicians in an emergency.

HISA also announced a partnership with NovaCare Rehabilitation, a nationwide physical therapy network with nearly 2,000 outpatient physical therapy centers and more than 7,000 licensed therapists. NovaCare will provide jockeys with routine physicals and baseline concussion examinations at a discounted price nationwide.

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