Taking the fall: Canada’s concussed riders will be watched closely

Alyssa Yallop (GBR) comes off One More Step.
© Mike Bain

New rules relating to concussions in equestrians come into effect in Canada from January 1.

Equestrian Canada (EC) is one of the first national governing bodies for sport in Canada to release official, sport-specific guidelines on return-to-play protocols for athlete concussions, with its new “Accidents & Return-to-Play” rule.

The rule comes into effect from January 1 for all EC sanctioned competitions in Canada.

Key components of the new rule include the following:

  • In the event of a fall/accident where a concussion can be reasonably suspected, the competitors must receive medical clearance by qualified medical personnel onsite before continuing to compete.
  • The competitor is solely responsible for ensuring the onsite medical assessment takes place. Should a competitor refuse to be evaluated, they will be disqualified from the competition.
  • If onsite qualified medical personnel suspect a concussion or believe the competitor may be at risk of concussion due to the nature of the fall or impact, the competitor will be suspended from competition and placed on a Medical Suspension List until medically released.
  • Competitors will remain on the EC Medical Suspension List until they submit an EC Return to Play Form, signed by a licensed physician, to EC.
  • No competitor shall compete at EC sanctioned competitions while on the EC Medical Suspension List and competition organizers may refuse entry to anyone currently on the list.

Dr Rob Stevenson, a Canadian Olympian in eventing who was appointed FEI National Safety Officer for Canada in 2012, was part of the concussion working group led by EC Head of Sport Science, Jessica Dilliott.

“When concussion occurs, it is of the utmost importance that they be recognized and that we limit athletes’ exposure to another potential concussion soon after the first,” Stevenson said.

A damaged helmet.
A damaged helmet.

“Though we acknowledge that equestrian sports have an inherent risk in participation, we recognize that there is no need to increase risk unnecessarily.

“Wearing an approved helmet reduces the risk of serious head injuries, but does not reduce the risk of concussion. Through these concussion protocols, Equestrian Canada has established a thorough framework for the education, recognition and management of concussions.”

Stevenson said the incidence of concussions at EC sanctioned competitions would now be able to be tracked.

“In addition, the implementation of a concussion-related educational program will allow us to seek to reduce the risk of the potentially devastating Second Impact Syndrome, as well as assist concussed athletes return safely to the sport through return-to-play guidelines.”

Other members of the concussion working group included EC Manager of Technical Development, Rachel Huebert, Jan Stephens, Jane Tidball, Chris Pack, Doug Orr, Anne Welch and Fran McAvity.

The full Accidents & Return to Play rule will be available in the 2017 Rules of Equestrian Canada, Section A, General Regulations, Article 101, to be published in January 2017.

One thought on “Taking the fall: Canada’s concussed riders will be watched closely

  • December 19, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    Hello there,
    I’m very impressed with the preservation of life. These protocols that are new for Canada have arrived at the committee 5 years late. Most of the sanctioned events the that I’ve seen the riders have been fully equipped riding nessiseccities. The helmet shown ,is the rider to purchase the only those? I suggest the committee reach out to the several companies for assistance with riders under 25. From what I’ve seen from the Canadian Eventing riders has been well equipped with vest, helmet, watch, gloves, and of coarse the tack must be durable. The helmet I’m talking about is one shown for purchase on prime.


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