Members of the Jockeys' Guild are taking part in a health survey that could lead to federal funding for further studies and provide information necessary for legislative pursuits.
The National Jockeys' Health Initiative is being organized by doctors and professors in California, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. The riders themselves have either completed surveys or will be asked to do so by regional managers of the Guild.
When survey results are tallied, the information will go to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which will be asked to provide funding for a second on-track study of jockey health and safety issues.
"It's important to get baseline data from jockeys," said Dr. Carlton Hornung of the University of Louisville. "We need quantitative, not anecdotal, data."
The survey tackles everything from dehydration to the conditions in jockeys' rooms around the country and details about on-track medical care. Racetracks will ultimately be rated on an A to F scale in terms of performance.
"If we have a scoring system, tracks can run but they can't hide from needed improvements," said Dr. David Seftel, medical adviser to the Guild and medical director at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields in Northern California.
Seftel and Hornung discussed the survey and its goals Dec. 4 during the Guild assembly in Las Vegas. Jockeys in attendance spent about an hour completing the anonymous survey.
Seftel said the information can be used to enact legislative changes, as well as support calls for adequate trackside medical facilities and qualified personnel.
"It's a win-win scenario to have better medical care at your site," Seftel said. "Life-saving care essentially starts trackside."
The study comes as members of Congress are looking into jockey health and welfare issues. That inquiry began in late 2005 when the Guild was in turmoil under the previous management team, and is expected to continue.