There is a lot of discussion about when is an appropriate time to compete after an injury particularly a brain injury of any kind. Loss of consciousness for any period seems to be a simple indicator of any sort of brain injury. The question is, after you suffer any sort of loss of consciousness, when is it an appropriate time to return to competitive riding. Thankfully gone are the days where you would be brushed off and chucked straight back into the saddle to finish.
Your fall eliminates you on that horse automatically. Here is the current FEI Rule
Article 519 HORSE & ATHLETE WELFARE
4. Examination after a fall – Medical Fitness
4.1 IF there is any doubt with regard to fitness to compete the Ground
Jury may with Medical Advice eliminated the athlete at its discretion.
All Athletes that have had a fall during training or competition must be
examined by the Official Medical Officer before they either take part in
another test, competition or leave the event site. The athlete is fully
responsible for ensuring that this examination takes place and in case of a
horse fall, that the horse is examined by the Official Veterinarian.
4.2 ACCIDENTS INVOLVING ATHLETES – The following will apply to all
registered athletes taking part in FEI Eventing competitions:
1. UNCONSCIOUSNESS AND/OR CONCUSSION: When an athlete has an
accident that results in unconsciousness and/or concussion, the athlete
must be automatically disqualified from the competition and is ineligible to
take part in any other test or competition at the event.
My recollection is that this is softer than the rules for 2009, which required a rider to be specifically approved by a relevant Specialist Doctor before being allowed to compete again i.e. if you have a head injury you would need to provide written approval from a Neurosurgeon before being allowed to compete again. (I am happy to be corrected on this as I can’t find a copy of the 2009 Rules).
Some National Federations have specific policies on “Return to Play” but others are not quite that far along yet. It is certainly an interesting topic for discussion. The USEA has a number of great resources on their site located here.
These resources include:
USEA Concussion Brochure – This link does not work and I am trying to find this brochure
British Eventing – Return to Play Policy – Note this link only links to the BE site and not the policy which I have been unable to find yet
Applied Sports Psychology Association – Mentally Preparing Athletes to Return to Play Following Injury.
The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine – What does return to play mean? • What can we learn from the pros? • Tips From the Pros to Speed Your Recovery • How to Improve Your Road to Recovery • A Word of Caution.
Moms Team – Well researched “return to play” advice for kids in sports.
Cogstate – Provides cognitive tests and assessments to detect symptoms after head trauma and provide guidelines to manage return to play.
Though the USEA does not have a return to play policy at this time, nor does it endorse any of the above references, the USEA strongly urges all its members who have experienced a head or internal injury to be fully signed off by their physician prior to returning to competition. We want you all around for a long time. Happy and safe eventing.