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PJA welcomes government concussion report and calls for UK-wide definition

The Professional Jockeys Association is supportive of calls for a UK-wide definition of concussion
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The Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) on Thursday welcomed the publication of a government report that calls for a standard definition of concussions to be applied across all sports in the UK. 

The report, entitled Concussion In Sport, follows an inquiry carried out by a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee to consider the links between sport and long-term brain injury.

It found that sports had been allowed to "mark their own homework" on reducing the risks of brain injury and made recommendations including for a paid medical officer, with the power to prevent at-risk athletes from competing, to attend major sporting events. 

The report concluded that "unaccountable" governing bodies had not properly addressed the issue of brain injury in their sports, and said the UK government had "failed to take action on player welfare", prompting its call for a UK-wide standard definition for concussions.

An extract from the summary of the 38-page report read: "The drive that distinguishes world champions and gold medallists also disincentivises prioritising personal injury in the pursuit of success. Sport has a responsibility to ensure athletes aren't allowed to trade long-term health for short-term sporting success."

Racing has been at the forefront of concussion protocols and it was the first non-team sport to introduce a standardised programme in 2003 under former BHA chief medical officer Dr Michael Turner. 

"We very much welcome the DCMS inquiry and the recommendations that have been published in its concussion in sport report," said PJA chief executive Paul Struthers, who appeared before the committee.

PJA chief executive Paul Struthers

"Its recommendations to establish a UK-wide minimum standard for concussions that all sports must use and adapt, a minimum standard protocol for concussion, a national framework for reporting sporting injuries and a single research fund are particularly important. 

"We've been fortunate that racing has been ahead of the game in many ways, thanks to the work of the British Horseracing Authority and its predecessors, and especially racing’s former chief medical adviser Dr Michael Turner and his successor Dr Jerry Hill.

"However, it is vital we continue to work closely with the BHA and Dr Hill to ensure racing’s protocols, support, education, advice and aftercare continue to be fit for purpose and serve to protect our members as much as possible. We also look forward to working with the government, Professional Players Federation members and other stakeholders to ensure these recommendations are implemented."

A BHA spokesman added: "The BHA welcomed the launch of the DCMS select committee’s inquiry and provided written evidence in March of this year, as is referenced in the subsequent report.

"Thanks to the work to the BHA’s previous chief medical adviser, Dr Michael Turner, and his successor Dr Jerry Hill, British racing has always taken the issue of concussion extremely seriously and we will continue to lead the way in researching concussion and developing effective protocols.

"Discussions with government have already been undertaken on this subject and we look forward to continuing that work, as well as engaging with other sporting governing bodies, to understand what role British racing can play in the implementation of the report’s recommendations."

Any jockey who suffers concussion is required to complete a post-concussion review before they are allowed to return to riding. They are also expected to complete a baseline test every two years.

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Sport has a responsibility to ensure athletes aren't allowed to trade long-term health for short-term sporting success
E.W. Terms