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Hong Kong jockeys undergo rigorous testing to improve long-term health

Hong Kong riders will undergo rigorous testing this season as the Jockey Club attempts to improve their long-term health for life after racing.

Jockeys put themselves through huge stress during their career, often forcing their bodies to the extremes to get the most out of their careers.

Most are forced to perform while dehydrated or not properly fuelled up in an attempt to reach a certain weight, so there is a push from within the jockey ranks to learn what can be done to improve their life after racing.

“Gone are the days where jockeys used to smoke cigarettes and drink whiskey,” four-time champion jockey Zac Purton said.

In the tests, conducted by Dr John O’Reilly, riders have completed nutritional analysis, aerobic capacity, muscular strength and endurance tests.

Critically, included in the tests were bone health-status checks after jockeys around the world were found to have poor bone strength due to being under nourished throughout their careers.

“It originally started off with some blood tests, V02 tests along with bone density which was a big one and it is to test us as jockeys compared to other athletes around the world,” Purton said.

“It is to test us to see if there is anything we can improve in, not really during our career but more so later on in life.

“We did some more tests recently, we did a beep test, a jump test and a strength test and the one thing I took away was the bone density stuff.

“[O’Reilly] said by the time I am 45, I will have the bones of a 65 year old – that comes with

the diet we have and the lifestyle we live, being dehydrated all the time, sweating to ride.

“It is helpful to know that so that we can try and take some preventive measures or do something different to help our bodies out.”

Jockey Club executive director of racing Andrew Harding said the club was looking to build a large group of benchmark data for jockeys to learn what improvements can be made.

“What we want to do is go beyond annual medical checks and work with our jockeys to enhance their long-term health through appropriate diet and exercise prescription and ongoing monitoring, based on existing best practice and research evidence,” he said.

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