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Jockey Mental Health Fears

With Cheltenham Festival looming (11th March 2008), sport psychology expert Dr Costas Karageorghis, a Reader at Brunel University in west London, today reported the worrying results of groundbreaking psychological research into the mental well-being of professional flat and jump jockeys.

Together with Michael Caulfield, former long-term Chief Executive of the Jockeys' Association and MSc graduate of Brunel, Karageorghis studied the mood and eating attitudes of 41 professional British jockeys.

The researchers found that, when riding at their minimum weight, the jockeys' mood was significantly more negative and their attitudes to eating significantly more disordered. In fact, six of the jockeys (15%) were identified as being in the 'at risk' category in terms of their eating patterns, which entailed regular starvation and 'flipping' - a term jockeys use to describe self-induced vomiting.

“The results indicate that jockeys who continually undergo periods of rapid weight loss, to ride at a light weight, may experience significant mood disturbance and become more vulnerable to eating disorders,“ comments Dr Karageorghis. “It is clear that governing bodies must address minimum riding weight, as well as provide jockeys with access to support to help them manage the considerable demands of the sport.“

The research findings are timely as they come in the run-up to the sport's biggest annual event, the Cheltenham Festival. The work of Karageorghis and Caulfield adds scientific authority to those who are lobbying the sports governing bodies to increase the minimum riding weights.