DUBAI // Turf Club Ireland this week raised the minimum weight for many types of races amid concern for the welfare of jockeys.
"Making weight" is a regular part of the lives of many jockeys who often ride at levels considerably below their natural weight.
To do this they often employ a technique known as "wasting".
This involves a combination of measures including drastic dieting, sweat-inducing techniques such as saunas and hours spent in a hot bath, and the use of laxatives and diuretics.
Dr Adrian McGoldrick, chief medical officer at Turf Club Ireland, who campaigned to raise the minimum riding weight, said he was concerned about the issues of dehydration and bone thinning among jockeys.
"Research on our jockeys has been ongoing since 2003," he said. "This confirmed that there is an inadequate intake of energy, water and calcium as a means of making weight."
Body scans on jockeys and apprentices showed more than 50 per cent had bone thinning.
"Body fat measurements have shown levels equivalent to elite rowers and boxers," McGoldrick said.
"However, while jockeys have to make weight on a consistent basis, body fat in the other athletes can vary by up to 22 per cent during a season."
According to McGoldrick's research, jockeys displayed worrying levels of dehydration which can affect physiological performance and, in severe cases, impacts on cognitive ability.
"I am constantly surprised that there is not more research done on jockeys," he said. "Most elite sportspeople have teams of professionals around to advise on nutrition and exercise."
Jockeys are often left to navigate their way through the issue of making weight.
McGoldrick said a new approach is necessary and applauds the changes brought in by the Turf Club.
"I feel that everyone is a winner with these changes, be they riders, trainers, owners or punters," he said.
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