A new collaboration with the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) establishes New York Tech’s Center for Sports Medicine as NYRA’s official concussion management team. Accordingly, the Center for Sports Medicine will take a leading role in the continued development of concussion protocols for jockeys at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course.
In December 2020, the Center for Sports Medicine launched a concussion baseline testing program for jockeys competing at the 2020-2021 winter meet at Aqueduct. This program is ongoing, with additional baseline testing to be performed during the spring/summer meet at Belmont and the summer meet at Saratoga.
“The Center for Sports Medicine is at the forefront of concussion science, research, and prevention,” said Martin Panza, NYRA senior vice president of racing operations. “Dr. [Hallie] Zwibel and his team will be a tremendous addition as we work together to finalize comprehensive protocols to further protect jockeys in New York.”
In addition to baseline testing, which is central to informing future treatment and concussion assessment, the Center for Sports Medicine will provide expert resources in the diagnosis of potential concussions as well as treatment plans for jockeys seeking a safe return to the racetrack. Further, the Center for Sports Medicine will provide continuing education for jockeys and NYRA personnel to ensure a more thorough understanding of concussion prevention.
“NYRA clearly prioritizes the health and safety of the world-class athletes riding at their racetracks,” said Hallie Zwibel, D.O., medical director and director of the Center for Sports Medicine. “This collaboration is a reflection of that fact and will result in a concussion management plan that can serve as a national blueprint for thoroughbred racing.”
The new collaboration underscores the Center for Sports Medicine’s existing efforts to promote increased concussion safety. In recent years, the Center teamed up with several current and former jockeys, including Ramón Dominguez, who was forced to retire in 2013 when he sustained head injuries during a race.
“I am very encouraged that NYRA is collaborating with New York Institute of Technology to enhance jockey safety,” said Dominguez. “As awareness for concussion safety has risen, so has the level of protection for these amazing athletes, and this collaboration continues those important efforts.”
As a result of their work with current and former jockeys, the Center for Sports Medicine assisted The Jockeys Guild in the development of “return to ride” guidelines, which provide instruction on when injured jockeys can safely return to racing. Zwibel also serves as a medical consultant on a research project led by NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine assistant professor Milan Toma, Ph.D., which uses fluid dynamics to evaluate the safety of jockey helmets.