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Safety records confirm the risks of professional horse racing

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A review of injuries in professional horse racing in Great Britain and the Irish Republic has found that racing tops even mountaineering for fatal injuries. The review covers 1992 to 2000 and provides the first accurate analysis of racing injuries.

Minor soft tissue injuries were the commonest; next were more serious injuries such as fractures—mostly to the arms or collarbone. Concussion was common (1.8–7.4/100 falls in jump or flat racing, respectively), especially in flat racing because of its greater speed and tendency for the horses to bunch and for fallen jockeys to be kicked. More serious head injuries occurred only three times.

Despite the apparent dangers deaths during the review period were rare, just two in Great Britain, both from internal injuries. Sixteen jockeys sustained injuries in Great Britain during 1996–2000 that ended their career.

These data are available thanks to compulsory safety measures, including strict monitoring introduced in 1992 by racing’s regulatory bodies in Great Britain and the Irish Republic. Falls and injuries must be recorded in a jockey’s medical record book by one of the doctors solely responsible for jockeys at each race meeting; a written record is returned to the chief medical advisor of the regulatory body.

The review was based on searches of Medline and Sport Discus 1975–2001, hand searches, and contacts with experts and sports organisations worldwide.

Injuries to professional jockeys have not been much reported—despite racing’s high profile as a spectator sport—and epidemiological data are particularly scarce.