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Injured Jockeys Fund adapting quickly to maintain key support

The IJF will carry out rehabilitation and fitness sessions remotely due to the coronavirus
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Among the army of brave and talented staff working tirelessly to keep Britain and Ireland moving are the thousands of key workers employed in racing and bloodstock. In this special series, we salute and cover the work of racing's unsung heroes . . .

For decades the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF) has been an invaluable resource and even in the face of unprecedented challenges due to the coronavirus it continues to support riders past and present. 

The charity was forced to close its three rehabilitation centres on March 23 due to government restrictions but has maintained a skeleton staff of 29 people, including its team of eight regional almoners, who regularly reach out to many long-term beneficiaries.

"I'm so proud of the team," says Lisa Hancock, chief executive of the IJF. "They take their work really personally and have developed great relationships with all the jockeys. They are able to make such a difference to those who need it most by just having a proper chat with them and adding a bit of structure to their day.

"Those of an older generation are getting a phone call every other day as appropriate and we're starting to do some shopping for them, as well as prescription pick-ups – all those practical things."

The IJF has also retained physios and strength and conditioning coaches, who have been conducting rehabilitation sessions remotely, as well as daily fitness classes to help those still riding keep fit. 

In the ten days following Boris Johnson's announcement of a nationwide lockdown on March 26, the team from Oaksey House in Newmarket conducted 35 hours of video conferences. 

"Hopefully our remote sessions are filling a few holes for jockeys. It allows them to set some personal goals and gives them a bit of an endorphin rush. It helps their wellbeing as it fills an hour or so of their day, and is also a chance for them to interact with someone who understands the type of person they are," says Hancock.

"We understand that jockeys are used to being busy, always on the road and getting regular adrenaline rushes. More often than not they're under a bit of pressure and thrive on that. They're now lacking goals and competitive opportunities, which is challenging." 

Asked for one piece of advice for the hundreds of licensed jockeys stood down following the cancellation of racing, Hancock adds: "We know how tough it is for absolutely everybody.

"Our team is here to offer help in a variety of ways, whether that is pastoral, financial or medical. We know how tough it is. There's no need to feel proud and not ask for support. Our team wants to help."

Read more from our Unsung Heroes series:

'It's a crisis we've never seen before' - Racing Welfare riding to the rescue

The home of racing: how stable staff are adjusting to lockdown life in Newmarket

'It's very strange but I realise how lucky I am just having a job at all'

No rest for jumps yards as attentions turn to exciting prospects

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They take their work really personally and have developed great relationships with all the jockeys. They are able to make such a difference
E.W. Terms