Newswise — While much of the conversation ahead of Saturday’s Belmont Stakes has centered on a possible Triple Crown winner, there’s been emerging discussion on the danger of concussions in jockeys.

According to Dr. Hallie Zwibel, physician and director of the Center for Sports Medicine at NYIT, unlike other professional sports, such as the NFL, U.S. horseracing lacks national concussion protocols. Recently, the profession was reminded of this danger with the death of a renowned veteran rider who succumbed to injuries following a headfirst fall in March.

As, Mike Smith, jockey of favored-to-win Justify, has experienced, head injuries come with the territory. However, Zwibel notes that riders who get back on the horse without evaluation, and often dismiss short-lived symptoms such are headaches, dizziness, and confusion, risk long-term brain damage.

“Without evaluation and treatment after a fall, riders who get back on the horse right away are gambling with their health. Clear guidelines need to be established to prevent these athletes from further aggravating an injury and inflicting a lifetime of neurodegenerative disease.”

Dr. Zwibel is teaming up with permanently injured professional jockeys and advocacy association The Jockey’s Guild to develop “return to ride” rules that will provide instruction on when injured jockeys can safely return to racing.

Dr. Zwibel is available for interview regarding concussions in jockeys. Please contact [email protected].