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Jockey Falls, Injuries, and Fatalities Associated With Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse Racing in California, 2007-2011.

  • Author(s): Hitchens, Peta L
  • Hill, Ashley E
  • Stover, Susan M
  • et al.


Despite the popularity of the horse racing industry in the United States and the wide recognition that horse racing is one of the most hazardous occupations, little focused research into the prevention of falls by and injuries to jockeys has been conducted.


To describe the incidence rates and characteristics of falls and injuries to Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing jockeys in the state of California.

Study design

Descriptive epidemiology study.


Data on race-day falls and injuries were extracted from jockey accident reports submitted to the California Horse Racing Board from January 2007 to December 2011. Denominator data, number of jockey race rides, were obtained from commercial and industry databases. Jockey fall, injury, and fatality incidence rates and ratios in Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse flat races were estimated using Poisson regression. Characteristics of falls and injuries are described and compared.


In Thoroughbred races, 184 jockey injuries occurred from 360 reported jockey falls, 180,646 race rides, 23,500 races, and 3350 race meetings. In Quarter Horse races, 85 jockey injuries occurred from 145 jockey falls, 46,106 race rides, 6320 races, and 1053 race meetings. Jockey falls occurred at a rate of 1.99 falls per 1000 rides in Thoroughbred races, with 51% of falls resulting in jockey injury, and 3.14 falls per 1000 rides in Quarter Horse races, with 59% of falls resulting in jockey injury. The majority of falls occurred during a race, with catastrophic injury or sudden death of the horse reported as the most common cause in both Thoroughbred (29%) and Quarter Horse (44%) races. During the period studied, 1 jockey fatality resulted from a fall. Jockey fall rates were lower but injury rates were comparable to those reported internationally.


On average, a licensed jockey in California can expect to have a fall every 502 rides in Thoroughbred races and every 318 rides in Quarter Horse races. While jockey fall rates were lower, injury rates were similar to those in other racing jurisdictions. The high proportion of jockey falls caused by horse fatalities should be further investigated.

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