HISA hires medical director for jockey safety
Dr. Peter Hester, MD, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and currently practicing at The Lexington Clinic in Lexington, Kentucky, has been named National Medical Director for the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA), HISA announced October 11.
As National Medical Director, Hester will focus on jockey health and welfare, working to mitigate the risk of injury, including concussion, as well as improving health care services to jockeys and sourcing affordable medical insurance for jockeys and their families.
“I have had the great privilege of working with many jockeys and exercise riders in my practice as they recover from injuries and surgery,” said Hester. “I have tremendous respect for the athleticism that their job requires and I am familiar with the risks associated with this profession. It is an absolute honor to have the opportunity to work with HISA as we implement new policies to protect and serve these courageous athletes.”
Hester has been serving on HISA’s Racetrack Safety Standing Committee as an independent member but will resign from his seat on the Committee as he begins his new role. Going forward, Hester will continue to practice as an orthopedic surgeon at The Lexington Clinic while serving as HISA’s National Medical Director beginning October 28, 2022.
Hester completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania before attending medical school and completing his orthopedic surgery residency at the University of Kentucky. He pursued a Sports Medicine and Shoulder Surgery Fellowship at The Hughston Clinic and has been an orthopedic surgeon at The Lexington Clinic since 2002.
“Prior to HISA, the Thoroughbred racing industry lacked cohesive safety standards for riders, meaning their health protocols and minimum safety standards varied significantly from one state racing jurisdiction to another,” said HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus. “By setting minimum safety standards and appointing a National Medical Director, HISA is working to make the sport safer every day for all participants regardless of the level at which they compete. This is not a one size fits all process, and we are committed to working with each track individually as we navigate the transition toward a more centralized approach together as an industry. I have no doubt that Dr. Hester is going to be an incredible asset and advocate for jockeys and exercise riders across the country.”
Hester’s roots in racing run deep. He grew up in Garden City, New York, and his passion for the sport of Thoroughbred racing developed while working at Belmont Racetrack for Dr. William O. Reed, a renowned Equine Veterinary Surgeon. During medical school, Hester also worked as a night watchman and farm hand at Ballindaggin Farm.
In his new role, Hester will further HISA’s commitment to protecting jockey safety and welfare in coordination with individual tracks’ medical directors and other subject matter experts. Under HISA, every rider is required to have their medical information readily available at all times in case of an accident and must undergo annual physical examinations and baseline concussion tests to demonstrate they are fit to ride. HISA has also implemented uniform standards for concussion and return-to-ride protocols, in addition to requiring racetracks to provide insurance if state statutes do not allow jockeys to have access to workers compensation. HISA will continue to build on and improve these protocols, including by listening to and working directly with jockeys and others on the ground.