Story by: Maggie Roetker on May 2, 2023
As the official medical provider of Churchill Downs, Norton Healthcare has seen its share of injuries sustained by jockeys. But care of these elite athletes goes beyond the first Saturday in May and issues that may occur during training or racing.
The health of jockeys is a focus of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, which requires certain medical care and concussion management at racetracks. The care mandated by this self-regulatory organization goes beyond the jockey’s race-related and injury needs to preventive care, including baseline concussion testing.
“A recent change in governance requires all jockeys to have a baseline physical and concussion evaluation,” said Nathan L. McKinney, D.O., orthopedic sports medicine physician with Norton Orthopedic Institute and Norton Sports Health. “These tests provide a point of reference to compare against, giving us a better idea of what’s ‘normal’ for a patient.”
Norton Sports Health specialists provide annual physicals for jockeys, including these baseline concussion tests, lab work and other preventive care. The physicians also are on-site during racing to help assess injuries. If necessary, jockeys have access to Norton Healthcare’s vast specialty services and providers to ensure quick, convenient care for any medical needs.
“Jockeys are elite athletes who need to be at the top of their game to ride in races,” said Luke A. Beggs, M.D., orthopedic sports medicine physician with Norton Orthopedic Institute and Norton Sports Health. “Our goal is to help them with any preventive care they need as well as ensure they are safe to ride.”
During races, Dr. McKinney or Dr. Beggs is posted trackside, collaborating with EMS to quickly respond to emergent situations. If a jockey needs medical attention not requiring a trip to the hospital, they’re rushed to the on-site Norton Sports Health Jockey Care Clinic, where providers waste no time in diagnosing injuries and carefully developing plans for treatment.
“When jockeys fall, it takes a head-to-toe exam to rule out things like intra-abdominal injury, bone fractures or concussions. The high impact jockeys are exposed to with these injuries can be along the lines of what we’d expect from a car accident,” Dr. McKinney said.
Norton Healthcare physicians have provided various levels of support to Churchill Downs over the years. Norton Audubon Hospital, the closest hospital to the track, has treated jockeys and racing fans for a variety of injuries for years.
Norton Healthcare and Churchill Downs have supported each other beyond the track. Norton Cancer Institute continues to be a key partner with Churchill Downs as the beneficiary of Kentucky Oaks Day events. In 2019, the Norton Healthcare Foundation named Churchill Downs its Philanthropist of the Year – Organization for fundraising efforts that supported breast health programs at Norton Cancer Institute through Derby Divas, specifically funding a 3D tomography machine for the Norton Prevention & Wellness Mobile Prevention Center.
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