Characterization of real and simulated forces on back biomechanics to promote safety in horse racing jockeys

Race riding is physically challenging and requires athletic training akin to professional sports occupations. Occupational ergonomic interventions include considerations of physical capabilities as well as limitations. Jockey performance could be limited by chronic lumbar pain that has been recently elucidated in 77% of professional riders of multiple disciplines (Tumlin and Pekarchik, 2018) and 76% of elite dressage riders reported chronic pain in the low back; and demonstrated reliance upon over the counter pain medication for treatment (Lewis and Kennerly, 2017). Lumbar pain has been shown to affect elite competition riders, in particular, show jumpers (Kraft et al, 2009), whose position in the saddle when compared to other disciplines is most similar to that of race jockeys. Sudden or sustained forces on the lumbar region can cause pain, without manifestation of diagnosable injury. While some studies have been conducted to compare real and simulated race riding (Walker et al, 2016) and four gaits (Wolframm et al, 2013) there are gaps in understanding how the interaction of horse and rider biomechanically impact the rider’s lumbar region (Martin et al, 2016). Given the prevalence of pain in professional and elite riders, understanding of biomechanical forces exerted on the lumbar region will promote ability to develop training and performance strategies to mitigate potential injury and pain. To address this gap in equestrian biomechanics research, the University of Kentucky College of Public Health (CPH) and Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering (BAE) in conjunction with existing research in the College of Health Sciences (CHS) Sports Medicine Research Institute (SMRI) propose to develop a novel dynamic sensor system (DSS) that will measure lumbar biomechanics, with application of the DSS in both field and simulated racing environments.

The purpose of this pilot will be to generate baseline information and will be the first step in understanding what forces are experienced during race riding. The larger objective is to determine strategies for optimizing occupational success, health, and safety in equestrian sports, as part of the SMRI goals of developing biomechanical and strength assessments of equestrians, and development of prevention strategies for chronic and acute injury specifically in jockeys.