Intense accelerations experienced by jockeys measured in Italian pilot study

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A schematic representation of how the wearable system is worn during the race (underneath the protective vest). Image: Di Tocco et al. https://doi.org/10.3390/s21010152

Brief spells of intense acceleration experienced by jockeys during racing have been recorded by Italian researchers, who had two riders don “smart T-shirts” underneath their mandatory protective vests.

Wearable devices for measuring the physiological responses in sports and physical activities have been gaining momentum in recent years.

Some studies have used available commercial monitoring systems, mainly on horses, during training sessions or competitions.

Only a few studies have focused on the jockey’s physiological and kinematic parameters, Joshua Di Tocco and his fellow researchers noted in the journal Sensors.

Monitoring jockeys during races poses particular challenges because weight, comfort and safety are critical issues.

The study team described their development of a smart T-shirt that used conductive textiles, four sensing elements, a custom-made circuit board, and a miniature inertial measurement unit to simultaneously monitor the respiratory rate and kinematic parameters (linear acceleration) of riding activity. The data is recorded on a micro SD card.

The resulting shirt, which weighed about 200 grams, was tested and developed on a volunteer mimicking the typical riding movements of jockeys.

The system was then tested in a pilot study involving two jockeys in the 137° Derby Italiano di Galoppo, the most important event of the competitive gallop season in Italy.

The researchers successfully obtained data for the pre-race phase (about 1000 seconds before the start), the two minutes of the race itself, and about 1000 seconds after the race.

A graphical representation of the race phases and the related respiratory signal (black line) and the accelerometer data (blue, red and yellow lines). Image: Di Tocco et al. https://doi.org/10.3390/s21010152

The study team said the data from the miniature inertial measurement unit showed that the jockeys underwent intense accelerations.

The maximum acceleration value for one jockey (a 48kg woman) was about 47.1 metres per second per second, with an average of about 10.8 metres per second per second. The maximum value for the other jockey (a 50kg man) was about 36.3 metres per second per second, with an average of about 9.8 metres per second per second.

The data also showed a significant increase in respiration rate during the race.

With knowledge of the length of the race circuit, the researchers were able to calculate the average horse stride length — an average of 6.83m for one horse and 7.36m for the other.

A graphical representation of the wearable device embedding the four sensing elements, the circuit board used to collect the signals and the miniature inertial measurement unit axes. Image: Di Tocco et al. https://doi.org/10.3390/s21010152

The study team, discussing their findings, said the system successfully collected respiration data, as well as the linear acceleration reached during the race, for each jockey. It was notable that respiration data was able to be collected during the race, despite chest movements due to galloping that were unrelated to breathing.

The authors intend to conduct future tests on larger sample sizes, and using jockeys with different mount styles and in different race types.

The study team comprised Di Tocco, Riccardo Sabbadini, Emiliano Schena and Carlo Massaroni, all with the Unit of Measurements and Biomedical Instrumentation at the Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma; Luigi Raiano and Domenico Formica, with the university’s Unit of Neurophysiology and Neuroengineering of Human Technology Interaction; and Federica Fani and Simone Ripani, with Avery Dennison RBIS Italy.

Di Tocco, J.; Sabbadini, R.; Raiano, L.; Fani, F.; Ripani, S.; Schena, E.; Formica, D.; Massaroni, C. Breath-Jockey: Development and Feasibility Assessment of a Wearable System for Respiratory Rate and Kinematic Parameter Estimation for Gallop Athletes. Sensors 2021, 21, 152.

The study, published under a Creative Commons License, can be read here

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