Damien Oliver is amongst Australia’s greatest-ever jockeys and is a member of an exclusive club that has ridden the “Grand Slam” of Australian racing. Oliver has won the Melbourne Cup three times, the Cox Plate twice, the Caulfield Cup four times, and had a Golden Slipper win too. He is a 14-time Scobie Breasley Medal winner and was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2008.
Born into a racing family, Damien began his career in 1988 – the same year he had his first win as an apprentice. By mid-2022, he’d ridden 3,111 winning horses, and completed successful rides across the world, including Hong Kong, Japan, England, Dubai, New Zealand, Ireland, and Mauritius.
He joined the Sports Advisory Board at Levin Health in 2021.
Health and safety concerns in the sport of horse racing are high. There’s the very real threat of falling from a horse at a full run, with jockeys falling an average of 3-4 times for every 1000 races.
The most common injuries sustained from a fall are concussions/head trauma, fractured limbs, clavicle fractures (collar bone breaks), and spinal injuries. Unlike other sports, jockeys can’t wear extra pads or safety equipment to reduce the impact of falls, since this will increase their weight.
People in the sport are also at risk of long-term health complications like chronic back disorders and bad knees due to riding in a “monkey crouch” position”.
Champion jockey Damien Oliver has been subject to his fair share of falls and concussions throughout his career.
He suffered a broken spine in 1996 following a fall at Moonee Valley. Later in Bendigo, 2015, he got a concussion and a neck injury from a serious three-horse fall – an injury that threatened his pursuit of a 10th metropolitan jockeys’ premiership. Damien was also injured in a barrier incident at the Warrnambool races in 2022. The doctors had concerns about a neck fracture at the time, but he was later cleared.
Despite the challenges, Damien has continued to score victory after victory. With his knowledge of the health and safety risks in the racing industry, he joined the sports board at Levin Health to help guide our research in this area.
“Concussion is a big problem for jockeys, probably more than people think. I’ve had a few nasty falls in my career, but I’ve been fortunate not to have too many. The reason I’m involved with Levin Health is simple: they’re investing in world-class research and technology not only to help jockeys but also our community. Their research on concussions is important to me. If my sport can be made safer, then I feel comfortable lending my name and advice to that cause.”Damien Oliver
Also on the board is NRL Immortal Andrew Johns, AFL coaches and former players Damien Hardwick and Alastair Clarkson, and one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Lauren Jackson.