Most Australian jockey injuries occur away from races – study

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gb-racing-economic-impactMore than 60 percent of accident claims for Australian jockeys arise from injuries sustained on non racedays, a fresh study has shown.

The researchers set out to analyse the characteristics of insurance payments and horse-related workplace injuries to Australian jockeys during thoroughbred racing or training.

The University of Tasmania researchers did so by analysing insurance payments to jockeys and apprentice jockeys as a result of claims lodged with the Australian workers compensation scheme, WorkCover, and a national scheme paid for by a levy on stakes.

The incidence of claims for the period analysed – from mid-2002 to mid-2010 – was found to be 2.1 per 1000 race rides, with an average cost of $A9 million a year.

Race-day incidents were associated with 39% of claims, but 52% of the total cost, Andrew Palmer and his colleagues found.

The mean cost of raceday incidents, at $A33,756, was found to be higher than non-race day incidents, which averaged $A20,338.

Weekly benefits and medical expenses made up most of the costs of claims, the research team reported in the journal, Animals.

Fractures were the most common injury, at 29.5%, but head injuries resulting from a fall from a horse had the highest mean claim cost, at $A127,127.

“Costs of workplace injuries to the Australian thoroughbred racing industry have been greatly underestimated because the focus has historically been on incidents that occur on racedays,” they reported.

The researchers said thoroughbred racing was a popular sport and major industry, which in 2005–2006 was assessed as providing more than 64,000 full-time-equivalent jobs. It generated more than $A5 billion and contributed more than $A1 billion in government taxes.

“In Australia, approximately 1000 jockeys are licensed to ride in races annually and, for them, it is a dangerous occupation.”

They experience an average of one fall for every 240 rides in flat racing, with a third of such falls resulting in injury.

An Australian Jockeys’ Association survey conducted in 2010, reported that, in the 12 months before the survey, at least 50% of jockeys who completed the survey had sustained an injury and 40% had experienced a fall that prevented them from riding.

As 41% also reported having no private health insurance and 22% no superannuation, many were dependent on coverage from workers’ compensation.

The Personal Accident Insurance cover for all jockeys and apprentices, introduced in 2009, is funded by a 1% levy on the winnings of all thoroughbred races. The researchers described it as an important safety net for jockeys with low earnings.

The researchers found that the incidence of claims associated with raceday and non raceday incidents was significantly lower than average in Victoria, while South Australia and Western Australia had a significantly higher than average incidence of claims.

“Differences observed in the incidence and costs of claims between jurisdictions may be related to the different types of racing in each jurisdiction,” they said.

“Only three states conducted jumps racing during the study period (Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania), and the overall mean cost of claims by jumps jockeys was higher than for flat racing jockeys.

“This may reflect the severity of injuries experienced by jumps jockeys, and is apparent in the higher cost per claim in Victoria, where most jumps races are held.

“These findings are consistent with other studies which have found that, although jumps racing jockeys have a higher incidence of falls, and a lower rate of injury per fall, their injuries tend to be more severe.”

The most common sites of injury to jockeys were the lower and upper limbs, at more than 49%.

“Head injuries were less common but they were associated with a higher mean claim costs and more days off work.

“For incidents that did not result in a fall, facial injuries were also common,” the researchers noted.

“Of concern are the results from a questionnaire completed by jockeys that indicated that many experience workplace injuries but do not report or make a WorkCover claim because a certain amount of injury is accepted as part of the job.”

The research team acknowledged that one of the main limitations to the study was data quality.

“Inconsistencies in scheme funding, incident documentation, coding methodology and the breakdown of costs associated with claims, apparent in this study, could result in misclassification of incidents.”

Palmer was joined in the research by Beverley Curry, Peta Hitchens, Petr Otahal, and Lei Si. All are with the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania.

The research was funded by WorkCover Tasmania.

Workplace Injuries in Thoroughbred Racing: An Analysis of Insurance Payments and Injuries amongst Jockeys in Australia from 2002 to 2010
Beverley A. Curry, Peta L. Hitchens, Petr Otahal, Lei Si and Andrew J. Palmer
Animals 2015, 5(3), 897-909; doi:10.3390/ani5030390
The full study can be read here

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