Hall of Famers Smith And Velazquez: Thumbs Up To Maryland Concussion Protocol

Mike Smith at Saratoga. Photo: NYRA/Susie Raisher

Two days before the Preakness, Dr. Kelly Ryan is sitting on a floor in the Pimlico grandstand, staring intently at her computer, responding to texts, and greeting passersby. You’d never know that among the many people who will have to make decisions this weekend—trainers about running, jockeys about strategy, stewards about inquiries, bettors about wagers—she, and her colleagues, may well bear the greatest responsibility of them all.

Under the Maryland Jockey Club concussion protocol, Ryan and the other MedStar physicians on-track will be the ones to determine whether a jockey can ride later in the card in the unfortunate event of an accident and injury.

This is standard operating procedure for jockeys in Maryland, but few jurisdictions in the country have a doctor on-track, and few give that doctors that responsibility, so riders coming in from out of town may be unaware of how such decisions will be made.

According to MJC policy, when out-of-town jockeys report to the clerk of scales this weekend, they’ll be given information about the MJC concussion protocol and concussion education. They’ll be required to sign off, acknowledging that the doctors on-site will be the ones to determine whether a jockey is medically cleared to continue riding.

“They will all be informed before riding that this is how we do things in Maryland,” Ryan said.

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