Racing: Murphy may return to saddle: Badly injured jockey regains consciousness and a doctor says he 'will be able to ride again'

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The Independent Online
DECLAN MURPHY regained consciousness yesterday and spoke his first words since his horrific fall at Haydock on Monday. His rapid progress prompted Dr Michael Turner, the Jockey Club's chief medical adviser, to say that Murphy will be able to ride again.

After the jockey had been moved out of the intensive care unit at the Walton Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Liverpool, his brother Eamon said: 'Declan is very bruised but is now saying a few words. He is progressing along the right lines and is starting to become aware of what's going on around him.'

Turner said: 'He can return to race-riding if he wishes - there's absolutely nothing to stop him. But he'll have to recharge his batteries and he ought to take six to nine months to make his mind up.'

Murphy, 27, may soon be allowed to move to a hospital near his home at Newmarket. 'His condition continues to improve. He is conscious now but still must be considered poorly,' a hospital spokeswoman said. 'He might be able to go to another hospital soon - though not just yet.'

Coincidentally, the Jockey Club yesterday announced a package of measures to improve the safety and health of British jockeys.

The main innovation is a new helmet said to provide three times the protection of the previous type. The helmet will have a 50 per cent thicker polystyrene liner at the top of the head. This will come further down the back and give protection at all the edges. Detachable foam pads in the top of the helmet can cushion and absorb much more impact.

'Last Monday, Declan Murphy was kicked in an area where there was no polystyrene protection,' Dr Turner said. 'We're not going to make the new helmet compulsory but it would be very advisable for jockeys to change their present one. As an incentive we will be giving any jockey who has been sidelined with concussion the new up-dated version at half-price.

'The neurosurgeon at Declan's hospital has asked why jockey helmets don't have a mouth guard to protect their faces, as used by American footballers. This is something we are also looking into.'

Turner is out to reform many aspects of safety for jockeys. From the start of the next jumps season all racecourses will be allocated two doctors and a NHS-trained paramedic. The extra doctor will supply a third pair of hands for emergencies.

Other steps include a compulsory brain scan after two instances of concussion plus updated methods of testing for concussion. The mandatory two-day, seven-day and 21-day terms for the severity of concussion remain the same.

(Photograph omitted)