While concussion is the most common head injury sustained by professional athletes, there is currently no objective test for concussion. Dr Wright is working with Racing Victoria to identify reliable blood biomarkers of concussion in Australian professional jockeys.
According to Dr Wright currently return-to-ride decisions in jockeys following a concussion are guided by cognitive tests and physical symptoms.
“The limitation of this approach is that the brain can still be recovering from a head injury long after physical symptoms subside. By returning-to-ride prematurely after a concussion, athletes are placed at a greater risk of further injury,” said Dr Wright
AgriFutures Australia Manager, Research Annelies McGaw added improving the safety of industry participants and welfare of horses is a key priority for the AgriFutures Australia Thoroughbred Horses Program to enhance the sustainability of the industry.
“Having the capacity to objectively quantify concussion and its risk will allow jockey’s and industry participants to make informed returning-to-ride decisions. Ultimately improving jockey’s safety and the welfare of horses,” said Ms McGaw.
The study is one of the first to examine biological changes after a concussion, over a three year period. By identifying objective biological markers of concussion, Dr Wright and his research team hope to determine an accurate ‘window of vulnerability’ to further injury in jockeys.