This pilot study describes the physiological attributes of jockeys and track-work riders in Tasmania and investigates whether these attributes are associated with falls.
All jockeys and track-work riders licensed in Tasmania were invited to participate. The study group consisted of eight jockeys (two female, six male) and 20 track-work riders (14 female, six male). Measures of anthropometry, balance, reaction time, isometric strength, vertical jump, glycolytic and aerobic fitness, flexibility and body composition were conducted. Tests were designed to assess specific aspects of rider fitness and performance relevant to horse racing. For a subset of participants (n=14), the authors obtained information on falls and injuries. The authors used Poisson regression to estimate incidence rate ratios.
Jockeys had better balance, a faster mean reaction time, a lower fatigue index and a higher estimated V.O2max than their track-work riding counterparts. Jockeys were also younger and smaller in stature than track-work riders, and when differences in body mass were taken into account, they had a greater muscular strength and muscular (alactic) power. Important factors found to be associated with falls were lower aerobic and anaerobic fitness, greater muscular strength and power, and riding with the full foot in the stirrup irons compared with riding on the ball of the foot.
This pilot study shows that physiological attributes of jockeys and track-work riders can predict their risk of falling and are measurable using methods feasible for large-scale fieldwork.
Riding racehorses is a physically demanding and hazardous occupation, with most injuries to jockeys caused by falls.
This study aims to investigate the association between physiological attributes and risk of falls for jockeys and track-work riders.
Lower anaerobic and aerobic fitness, and higher muscular strength and power were associated with greater risk of falls.
Placement of the foot in the stirrup irons was also found to be associated with falls.
This pilot study has confirmed that it is feasible to measure the physiological attributes of jockeys and track-work riders that are predictive of the risk of falling.
Strengths and limitations of this study
This was the first study to investigate whether physiological attributes are associated with falls to jockeys and track-work rides.
Tests were deliberately restricted to those that could be conducted with robustly constructed and transportable equipment.
We were able to recruit only a small number of participants, but our sample comprised 44% of the jockey population and 24% of the track-work rider population licensed in Tasmania.
Some refinements to the testing methodology are needed.