NIOSH Studying Jockeys' Injuries, Health Risks

Two days after the richest payday in U.S. horse racing received wire-to-wire TV coverage, NIOSH on Oct. 29 posted a new topic page on jockeys' safety. The agency said it began studying them in October 2005 at the request of a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee chairman and ranking member. NIOSH held a public meeting on safety and health of workers in horse racing on May 22, 2007, and has done enough research to know the jockeys are sky-high in terms of injuries.

Citing studies by others, NIOSH said the licensed jockey population was estimated in 2000 by the Jockey’s Guild to number about 2,700. Between 1993 and 1996, 6,545 injuries occurred during official races, for an injury rate of 606 per 1,000 jockey years. Other studies have found the low body weight requirement for jockeys increases the risk of acquiring eating disorders and adopting unhealthy behaviors in order to control weight, the agency said.

NIOSH visited the Keeneland racetrack and the North American Racing Academy, both in Lexington, Ky., to interview state racing officials, jockeys, and others and to collect data. Using the knowledge gained from its meeting, presentations, and submissions, NIOSH will write a technical document to identify potential risk factors in the horse racing industry and suggest interventions to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses. The submissions received to date discussed weight loss, overexposure to x-rays, exposure to lead, barn fires, on-site medical care available at tracks, new technologies in racing surfaces, and the effects of repeated head trauma suffered by jockeys, the agency said.

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