A study in Maryland has shone a spotlight on injuries among jockeys during four years of Thoroughbred racing in the American state.
Dr Kelly Ryan and her fellow researchers set out to characterise jockey injuries at Maryland tracks using medical records gathered by sports medicine physicians who are onsite for all Thoroughbred racing activities in the state.
Maryland racetracks operate year-round, with about 160 race days a year, averaging 200 riders annually. Usually, between 20 to 35 jockeys are riding each race day throughout the state. Maryland races on only one track in the state at any given time.
There were 670 participating jockeys during the four years. There were 590 race days with 5611 races and 45,284 mounts across the three Maryland racetracks from September 12, 2015, to May 5, 2019.
During that time, there were 131 falls, 184 incidents and 204 injuries.
It was found that 80% of injuries affected soft tissue, while 4% were concussions.
Most injuries involved the lower extremities (31%) or upper extremity (26%), and typically resulted from a fall.
Among all incidents, 79.3% resulted in an injury, while 76.3% of falls resulted in an injury.
The study team, reporting in the journal BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, identified a significant proportion of injuries (41%) in and around the starting gate.
“Over a quarter of incidents resulting in injury required further medical care in hospital or other medical facility, while surgery was required in 2.5% of injuries.”
They reported that the jockeys sustained 4.5 injuries per 1000 mounts, 36.4 injuries per 1000 races and 345.8 injuries per 1000 race days.
The rate of fractures in the study (145 per 1000 falls) was significantly higher than reported elsewhere.
The study team said the ease of access to a consistent group of medical providers facilitated improved reporting, especially of minor injuries.
Sports medicine clinicians and racing tracks/jurisdictions should coordinate care and work to improve injury data collection to benefit riders’ health and safety internationally, they said.
“A quarter of injuries required additional care beyond the racetrack necessitating a coordination of care between emergent care, imaging, rehabilitation services and specialty care,” the authors noted.
They continued: “Our hope is that more sports medicine clinicians coordinate care with local racetracks in the USA and that racing jurisdictions around the world, such as the British Horseracing Association, Irish Turf Club, the Palio di Siena, Australian Racing Board, The Hong Kong Jockey Club, the National Horseracing Authority of Southern Africa, and others will improve injury data collection to benefit riders’ health and safety internationally.”
The study team comprised Ryan, Gabrielle Garruppo, Kezia Alexander, Christine Hluchan and Andrew Lincoln, who are affiliated with a range of Maryland institutions.
Ryan K, Garruppo G, Alexander K, et alInjuries among Maryland jockeys during thoroughbred racing: 2015–2019 BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine 2020;6:e000926. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2020-000926