jockey on race horse
  • In 2000, the licensed jockey population was estimated by the Jockey’s Guild to be approximately 2,700 [Waller et al. 2000].
  • Between 1993 and 1996, 6,545 injuries occurred during official races for an injury rate of 606 per 1,000 jockey years [Waller et al. 2000].
  • In a 1987 article, it was reported that more than 100 jockeys have been killed in work-related incidents since 1950 [DeBenedette 1987].
  • Numerous studies in the published scientific literature conclude that the low body weight requirement for jockeys increases the risk of acquiring eating disorders and adopting unhealthy behaviors in order to control weight.


Concerns about potential work-related hazards for jockeys and other employees in the horse racing industry were raised at an October 18, 2005 hearing by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Afterward, the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee requested that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conduct an evaluation of safety and health concerns in the industry, and provide recommendations for racetracks for preventing occupational injury and illness risks. NIOSH provided the subcommittee with a summary report Cdc-pdf[PDF – 39 KB] of the available scientific literature and with safety and health recommendations. NIOSH then was asked to continue and expand this research.

Subsequently, NIOSH conducted on-site visits at two locations in Lexington, KY—the Keeneland race track and the North American Racing Academy—to interview state racing officials, jockeys, and others, and to collect other information pertaining to safety and health issues. NIOSH also conducted a Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) research investigation of the death of a 63-year-old jockey. Additionally, on May 22, 2007, NIOSH held a public meeting, “Safety and Health in the Horse Racing Industry and Best Practices.” This meeting brought together experts from many different areas of the horse racing industry to discuss safety and health issues. Using the knowledge gained through these efforts, NIOSH will shape a technical document to identify potential risk factors in the horse racing industry and suggest interventions to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses.

The public meeting provided an open forum for presentations by individuals from many different areas of the horse racing industry. The transcripts and presentations from this meeting are available on the NIOSH Docket page.

Presentations by a track medical director focused on environmental health and safety at the race track and lead exposure Cdc-pdf[PDF – 13,110 KB]. Researchers from several academic institutions gave presentations covering areas such as jockey&aposs health Cdc-pdf[PDF – 4,540 KB], preventive medicine Cdc-pdf[PDF – 2,800 KB], and data collection Cdc-pdf[PDF – 9,360 KB] in the horse racing industry. Other presentations Cdc-pdf[PDF – 2,930 KB] were given by individuals from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Grayson Jockey Club, The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, a representative from an organization that owns several tracks, and from insurance personnel. These presentations focused on horse safety, on-track safety programs, improvements to protective vests, medication control, pari-mutuel oversight and regulation, and insurance issues.

In addition to information presented at the public meeting, NIOSH received several submissions to the docket after the meeting. These submissions contained information on health and safety concerns for jockeys associated with weight reduction, overexposure to x-rays, exposure to lead, and the effects of repeated head trauma. Other topics included the use of safety equipment, requirements and qualifications for on-site emergency medical service at race tracks, the health disparities found between those employed in the horse racing industry and the general population, barn fires, new technologies in racing surfaces, and other environmental health issues.


An Overview of Safety and Health for Workers in the Horse-Racing Industry
NIOSH Publication No. 2009-128 (April 2009)
This document is intended for all workers associated with the horse-racing industry, including jockeys, other race track workers, horse and race track owners, and racing commissions. The document summarizes NIOSH’s efforts in responding to the Congressional inquiry and provides recommendations for reducing the number of injuries and adverse health effects for workers in the horse-racing industry.
En Español

NIOSH conducted a research investigation into the February 2007 death of a 63-year-old jockey. NIOSH issued a FACE report summarizing the circumstances of the death and made recommendations for preventing similar deaths in the future.

Jockey Injuries in the United StatesExternalJournal of the American Medical Association: March 8, 2000 / 283(10):1326-1328.

For Jockeys Injuries Are Not a Long Shot
Physician and Sportsmedicine: June 1987 / 15:237-245.

Page last reviewed: July 30, 2012 (archived document)