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By Gina Rizza, Red Bank-Shrewsbruy Patch
Jockey Eddie Castro is used to taking risks. He must be in order to have become Monmouth Park Racetrack’s third rider overall, based on 23 winners from 140 mounts. But on June 29, 2014, Castro suffered a large laceration on his leg when kicked from his mount Kamarius prior to the ninth race at the Monmouth Park card. The accident occurred as Castro mounted the horse. Kamarius, who was making his first career start, reared up, knocking off and kicking the jockey.

Injuries in Castro’s sport often happen, said the 29-year-old Los Santos, Panama native. While Castro acknowledged that occasional injuries and falls do occur, he is grateful that everything turned out as it did. “It could have been worse,” he stated.

A professional rider since 2002, Eddie Castro earned the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey of the Year in 2003. On June 4, 2005 at Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens, Florida, Castro set an American record with nine wins on a single race card. He went on to win his 1000th race at Churchill Downs on November 15, 2006.

While it was originally believed that Castro suffered a broken femur from the horse’s kick, x-rays proved negative. Castro was sutured and kept overnight for observation, but further treatment was necessary. The Monmouth Park Racetrack reached out to The Plastic Surgery Center and Dr. Tushar Patel. Dr. Patel is an expert in reconstructive plastic surgery with specialized skills in microsurgery.

Dr. Patel saw Castro in the practice’s Shrewsbury, NJ office the very next day. Following a consultation, the two settled on scheduling surgery for that afternoon at The Plastic Surgery Center’s Center for Outpatient Surgery next door in Tinton Falls. The surgery center made speedy work of Castro’s accommodations, as Dr. Patel was sensitive to getting Eddie right back to his job.

Dr. Patel performed the entire procedure, an irrigation and debridement of the right thigh muscle (cleaning and removal of foreign material or damaged tissue), repair of the right vastus lateralis muscle (located on side of the thigh), and reconstruction with local tissue rearrangement. Less than a month later, Castro was ready to return to work.

According to Dr. Patel, “Eddie’s injury required a reconstructive approach to deal not only with the skin that was torn by the horse kick, but for the tear in the thigh muscle on the outside part of his leg. For most people an injury such as this could potentially heal in eight to ten weeks if left alone. However, Eddie’s injury required early surgery to get him back on track quickly and to adequately repair the muscle so he may use that leg efficiently when jockeying.”

Dr. Patel’s point is well-taken. Jockeys rely most heavily on leg strength (specifically of the thigh, where Eddie was injured), but use virtually every muscle in their body. It may seem as if a jockey merely relies on a horse’s speed to win, but the jockey’s own strength, coordination, and balance are vital. In fact, jockeys work as hard as Olympic athletes and are in equally, if not better, supreme shape.

In addition to extreme conditioning, professional jockeys must carefully watch their weight. On average, a professional thoroughbred jockey weighs 112-114 pounds and rides animals that weigh 1200-1700 pounds and run up to 45 miles per hour. It is no wonder jockeys’ injury risk is high.

Despite all this conditioning, however, jockeys can quickly lose fitness. Additionally, nothing can duplicate actual time in the saddle, which is why it was so important to get Castro back as soon as possible.

“Everything feels great,” Castro reported. “Dr. Patel did a great job with his surgery and was able to get me back to my routine quickly. He is a very nice person and great at what he does.” Castro also mentioned, “I felt very comfortable in the surgery center, and everyone treated me well.”

Thanks to Dr. Tushar Patel and The Plastic Surgery Center, Eddie Castro can now get on with his life. “My dream is to keep moving forward in my career,” he stated.