Survey shows jockeys face health issues
MAJOR health issues relating to the body weights of Irish jockeys need to be addressed as a matter of urgency by the Turf Club's senior stewards.
This has been emphasised by the preliminary results of a lengthy study into health risks directly related to weight structures in the sport and which suggest strongly that a further hike in the minimum 8st at present on the flat is required.
Little more than 48 hours before three senior medical experts met the stewards of the governing bodies on Monday, some startling statistics emerged from last Saturday's Curragh meeting, which was held in warm sunshine and resulted in findings that discovered none of the jockeys tested was fully hydrated.
Apart from hydration, bone density and body fat levels in our jockeys under both rules are giving significant cause for concern as a result of the participation of 27 riders, 17 on the flat and 10 over jumps, in the study, one of the main recommendations in the Turf Club's safety review group report, published in June 2004.
The contents were disclosed to the senior stewards by the Turf Club's medical officer, Walter Halley, the Curragh's racecourse doctor, Adrian McGoldrick, who co-ordinated the study and Dr Giles Warrington, who is head of player and athlete services at the University of Limerick's National Coaching and Training Centre.
The trio hope the minimum weight on the flat will eventually rise to 9st, though that will hardly happen in the near future, but they are keen to raise the minimum in the interim to 8st 7lb.
"The dehydration problems we have identified along with our concern about bone density and body fat levels were re-emphasised over the weekend at The Curragh. I tested 18 riders last Saturday and discovered unacceptably high levels of dehydration, both before and during racing," Dr McGoldrick explained.
"Only three of those I tested on Saturday last had low levels. Nobody was fully hydrated and 13 of the riders were at a level where their reaction time would have been impaired.
"Ideally, we would like to see the bottom weight rising to 9st. Having it at 8-7 would be only a preliminary recommendation and, although there may be resistance, I wouldn't be surprised to find us at 9st in the next four or five years," he added.
Steps were taken at the beginning of last season to ease the battle with the scales. Then, the minimum weight rose by 4lb from 7st 10lb to 8st, yet that is only giving some breathing space, according to the experts.
"Looking at the 5lb claiming riders, their body fat generally is below what is required of an elite athlete," Dr McGoldrick pointed out.