Five former champion jumps jockeys, including Sir Anthony McCoy and Richard Dunwoody, have enrolled in a ground-breaking research project examining the long-term impact of concussion in sport.
The study will investigate the correlation between those in sport susceptible to receiving blows to the head and long-term damage to the brain.
Concussion in Sport’s screening process will initially focus on more than 200 retired jockeys from Europe, including McCoy, Dunwoody and fellow former National Hunt champions Peter Scudamore, John Francome and Stan Mellor.
The study will then extend to sports such as boxing, rugby and football in which concussion is recognised as a significant risk.
Dunwoody, who retired in 1999 with a neck injury, said it was important research.
“As professional jockeys, with on average a fall every 14 rides, it was accepted that we would suffer concussion,” Dunwoody said.
“But we gave little thought as to what the long-term effects of repetitive head injuries would be, so this is an important research project, not only for racing, but for all sports.
“It will be of great benefit to establish the facts regarding the effects of concussion and to be able to minimise risks for athletes in the future.”
Concussion in Sport is the trading name of the International Concussion and Head Injury Research Foundation (ICHIRF), a non-profit organisation that works collaboratively with research projects in Australia, Switzerland and the USA.
The ICHIRF receives support and funding from various global sources, including the NFL, the Injured Jockeys Association and Godolphin, the powerful racing operation owned by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed.
Dr Michael Turner, the former chief medical adviser to the British Horseracing Authority who is now in the same position with the Lawn Tennis Association, founded the ICHIRF in 2014 and will lead the study.
“For the first time, a state-of-the-art, controlled, multi-sport research study will look exclusively at concussion in European sportsmen and women, starting with a detailed study of over 200 former jockeys,” he said.
“Through impartial, objective analysis of a significant pool of data, we will seek to establish whether there is any correlation between repeated concussion and long-term damage to the brain.
“What we are looking at here is to give people a decent risk analysis.”