Context: In the sport of horse racing, the position of the jockey and speed of the horse predispose the jockey to risk of injury.
Objective: To estimate rates of medically treated injuries among professional jockeys and identify patterns of injury events.
Design: Cross-sectional survey from data compiled by an insurance broker. Information on the cause of injury, location on the track, and body part injured was evaluated.
Setting: Official races at US professional racing facilities (n = 114) from January 1, 1993, through December 31, 1996.
Participants: A licensed jockey population of approximately 2700 persons.
Main outcome measures: Annual injury incidence rates per 1000 jockey-years, as well as injury type, cause, and location on the track.
Results: A total of 6545 injury events occurred during official races between 1993 and 1996 (606 per 1000 jockey-years). Nearly 1 in 5 injuries (18.8%) was to the jockey's head or neck. Other frequent sites included the leg (15.5%), foot/ankle (10.7%), back (10.7%), arm/hand (11.0%), and shoulder (9.6%). The most frequent location where injuries occurred was entering, within, or leaving the starting gate (35.1%), including 29.5% of head injuries, 39.8% of arm/hand injuries, and 52.0% of injuries to the leg/foot. Most head injuries resulted from being thrown from the horse (41.8%) or struck by the horse's head (23.2%). Being thrown from the horse was the cause of 55.1% of back and 49.6% of chest injuries.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that jockeys have a high injury rate. Efforts are needed to reduce the number of potential injury events on the track and to improve protective equipment so events do not lead to injury.