Male jockeys are 12 times more likely to have reduced bone density than the general population, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) reported this week.
The finding comes from an Oxford University study which is exploring the health and musculoskeletal consequences of a career in horse racing in both the short and long term, in order to help improve the welfare of jockeys and ride-out stable staff during and after their racing careers.
The researchers found that 30% of male Flat jockeys have reduced bone density compared to an expected 2.5% of men from the general population of a similar age. The same data set also revealed a higher body fat percentage (14%) versus athletes in similar weight-related disciplines such as boxing (8%).
In the next stage of the project, the team will follow those jockeys over a season to understand how body composition and bone density — as well other factors such as entry level fitness — influence time off riding from injury and success in their careers in the longer term.
A separate study at Liverpool John Moores University has been looking into jockeys’ eating habits and weight-making practices, finding an industry-wide awareness of “archaic weight-making practices” such as jockeys making themselves vomit to lose weight.
In response, a “hard hitting” poster campaign will be rolled out in weighing rooms to help educate riders about the health risks of undertaking repeated drastic and harmful weight loss measures and their negative effect on performance.
Also this week, in conjunction with the Racecourse Association (RCA), Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF) and Professional Jockeys Association (PJA), the BHA has announced a series of initiatives to tackle the challenge of concussion management in British racing.
Two education campaigns aim to raise awareness of the effects of concussion, the potential impacts of continuing to compete with a concussion injury, and how to recognise and manage head injuries.
Alongside these campaigns, the BHA is in consultation with the IJF and PJA about improving the way in which concussion and brain injuries are managed.
Dr Jerry Hill, chief medical adviser for the BHA, said: “Racing is a high-risk sport for concussion and, quite simply, our approach to assessment, management and treatment must be no less than world class.
“Education is essential to managing concussion. No matter how effective our medical teams can become in assessing and treating head injuries, we need our participants to be aware of the serious consequences that concussion can have and, in particular, the risks around continuing to compete when suffering from concussion. Whatever our role in racing we have a collective responsibility to ensure anyone who may be concussed is identified and protected during their recovery.”