Tuesday 25 October 2016

Two years after horror injuries, Brian Toomey regains jump jockeys' licence

File photo dated 02-03-2012 of Jockey Brian Toomey at Doncaster Racecourse
File photo dated 02-03-2012 of Jockey Brian Toomey at Doncaster Racecourse

Seven hundred and four days after suffering serious injuries in a fall at Perth, Brian Toomey has again been granted a professional jump jockeys' licence.

Toomey suffered life-threatening head injuries when he fell from Solway Dandy in a handicap hurdle on July 4, 2013.

He was placed in an induced coma in the high dependency unit of Ninewells Hospital, in Dundee, for two weeks, and had surgery to reduce swelling on his brain, including the removal of part of his skull. He remained in hospital for 157 nights.

Toomey said: "I know there will be people who will say I'm mad to want to come back.

"But it's been my dream since I was a boy to be a jockey and it's a job and life I love, and I was absolutely determined that if I couldn't make it back, it wouldn't be through a lack of effort on my part."

Before being granted his licence, the 26-year-old had to meet the medical criteria for fitness to return to race riding which assesses his fitness to ride, ability to control a horse safely and the risk of further injury if he were to fall.

He then had to undergo a full medical assessment by the BHA chief medical adviser Dr Jerry Hill, which examined not only his physical health but also his mental functions.

Following the assessment, and taking into account the opinions of his specialists, Brian was passed as medically fit to ride by Dr Hill.

Once the medical was completed, Toomey was still required to show his physical fitness and capability to ride in a series of tests held at the British Racing School (BRS) and Northern Racing College (NRC) before being issued his licence.

The jockey said: "It's been a long road back but the one thing that has driven me throughout my recovery, and the main thing that has kept me going, was a desire to be a jockey again, and I am delighted that I've been cleared to ride by Dr Hill.

"Following the accident, the paramedics said that I was dead for six seconds, but they managed to resuscitate me.

"Then when I made it to the hospital they thought that I only had a three per cent chance of survival. Now here I am, two years on, ready to race ride again.

"I have a huge list of people I want to thank, and it would be impossible to name all of those that have helped and supported me. However, in particular I'd like to thank the medical team at Perth, whose initial treatment probably saved my life.

"I'd also like to thank everyone at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, Professor Kane, the IJF, PJA and Dr Philip Pritchard, who helped me obtain the reports for my application.

"Also, of course, my friends and family. I couldn't have done this without any of these people. I am so grateful to them all.

"Just in surviving and overcoming all that I have been through I feel I have won the biggest and most important race of my life, and anything else is a bonus."

During his rehabilitation, Toomey spent periods riding out for trainers like Nigel Twiston-Davies, Willie Mullins, Enda Bolger and Jonjo O'Neill, as well as a significant period of time at Oaksey House under the care of the Injured Jockeys Fund.

The jockey will, however, still err on the side of caution as he edges closer towards a remarkable comeback.

He said: "I'm going to take my time and work on my fitness before taking my first ride.

"That's the next target to aim for and I'll give it my all to get there.

"I hope what I've been through can serve as an inspiration for others who injure themselves and are told that they might never return to doing what they love.

"Work hard and never give up and you just never know what could happen."

Dr Hill highlighted Toomey's strength of character as being a pivotal factor in his return to the saddle.

He said: "Brian has shown through his medical assessments and physical tests that he is fit to ride again.

"For the purposes of Brian's application we treated him in the same manner that we would any other rider, in terms of that the bar was set at the same level we expect of all professional jockeys.

"No allowances were made for his injuries and the length of his absence from the sport, which makes all the more remarkable the scale of his recovery.

"The fact that Brian is still alive is a testament to the first-class medical care which exists on British racecourses.

"It is very likely that the team of doctors at Perth, with their rapid and decisive response, saved Brian's life.

"To now be returning to ride again in Britain two years on, and having met all of the demanding criteria required of him to do so, is a quite remarkable story and an illustration of his determination and bravery."

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