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The champion jockey will undergo treatment on Wednesday and has opened up to Asian Racing Report about the physical and psychological effects of his hip injury.
Joao Moreira will be sidelined for at least three months but has opted against surgery and has vowed to return to the saddle after he receives treatment on his troublesome left hip this week.
The four-time Hong Kong champion jockey will undergo platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy on Wednesday at the Chinese University of Hong Kong Medical Centre to treat a labrum tear in his left hip.
Speaking to Asian Racing Report on his 39th birthday, Moreira described in detail the ‘ten out of ten’ pain he has suffered and the debilitating psychological effects of the injury over the last 18 months. But when asked if the injuries were career-threatening, Moreira was adamant he would return to competition.
“I do think I will ride again and I will ride again,” he said. “I am only doing this because I want to get back in the saddle. You will see me in the saddle again.”
After consultation with top orthopaedic and traumatology surgeon Dr. Patrick Yung, an MRI with top radiologist Dr. Ryan Lee and consultation with a sports injury expert in the United States, it was decided arthroscopic surgery to repair or remove damaged cartilage might do more harm than good, especially given the inflammation and fluid surrounding the damaged joint.
“We are concerned that the invasive nature of surgery could cause me even more problems,” Moreira said.
The injury is not from one particular fall or incident, just a case of ‘wear and tear’ over time.
Joao Moreira has been Champion Jockey in Hong Kong on four occasions. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit /Getty Images)
The Brazilian received PRP therapy in October 2020 but the jockey, whose low-crouching and dynamic style is a trademark, said he had returned to riding within only a week and did not allow enough time for his body to heal.
“People might ask why I am doing the same treatment again, but I didn’t give myself a chance last time,” he said. “I was a bit irresponsible by not giving time for it to work. I rushed and as a result the results of the previous PRP treatment weren’t the best because of how I handled it. I paid the price for that. It is a shame we cannot go back in time and change but we cannot. This time I will take the full three months and let the treatment work.
“The way I was feeling, I just was letting myself, trainers, owners and the club down. I couldn’t face the pain anymore, and I have to do something about it.”
Moreira pushed through the pain barrier in a season-long battle with Zac Purton last term, only to be defeated by his arch rival by four wins.
After returning to Hong Kong late from his off-season break in Brazil, Moreira missed the first two meetings of this season. He returned on September 18, but was able to complete just two meetings – failing to ride a winner in 15 rides – and left Happy Valley in agony last Wednesday night.
“When I ride, it feels like my hip will break,” Moreira said of the pain that has become progressively severe over the last 18 months and has also spread to his right hip socket. “On a scale of one to ten, it can be a ten, and the more I crouch down, the more it pinches.”
Joao Moreira, riding Lucky Gor (inside), is edged out by Lyle Hewitson on Pretty Queen Prawn in one of his final rides before he took an injury break. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit /Getty Images)
The flow-on effect of the physical pain is the psychological impact, which Moreira said had contributed to mental health issues.
“Because of the pain, I found it hard to concentrate, and consequently my performance is down and I have been struggling to keep myself psychologically motivated,” he said. “It has affected my performance as a rider, I estimate it has decreased my capability by 35 per cent and because of that my numbers have dropped dramatically. All together it has been affecting me psychologically, big time, and I am the kind of person that if I cannot do something 100 per cent, then I would rather not do it. That is me.”
Moreira’s wife Taciana and two children Miguel and Marina are in Brazil and while the jockey said he wishes he could join them in his homeland while he completes the treatment and ongoing physiotherapy, PRP is not legal in Brazil.
“I have a feeling that I have the best possible care here,” he said. “Especially from Patrick Yung, he is a true professional, and I do appreciate all they are doing for me. The club is connecting me with the best possible medical care.”
The Hong Kong Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges has also promised to ‘do whatever it takes’ to support the rider in his recovery.
“Whatever we can do, it doesn’t matter where, we will try everything to give him the best medical attention and recovery, whatever it takes,” the Jockey Club boss said. “He has been a tremendous asset to Hong Kong racing.”
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