Jockeys dieting to reach 'riding' weights risk eating disorders

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London, Mar 10 : Jockeys trying to slim down for races to reach 'riding' weights, are at a risk of developing eating disorders and feeling depressed, say researchers.

In a new expert study, led by Sports psychology expert, Dr Costas Karageorghis, a reader in sports psychology at Brunel University, the psychological effects of rapid weight loss was observed on a sample of almost 41 professional jockeys with an average age of 31 were recruited to determine the link between low weight and mood among the sportsmen.

The researchers rated the riders on their mood using an established score, which also considered disordered attitudes towards eating.

It was discovered that the jockeys were more prone to feel depressed and be anxious about food when trying to make a specific race weight. In fact, 6 jockeys 15 per cent) were also declared to be "at risk" of developing eating disorders.

On the contrary, at the time of having optimal or relaxed weights, with no forthcoming races, these jockeys were far more likely to report good mood, less anxiety, confusion and anger.

The findings of the research have alerted that jockeys are at risk of long-term mental health problems owing to fasting for races. And this phenomenon of embarking on extreme programmes to get the weight down is described as "wasting" by the researchers.

"This might involve a combination of starvation, deliberate dehydration, excessive sauna use, and even self-induced vomiting, known colloquially as 'flipping'," Scotsman quoted the authors of the study, as saying.

"The six jockeys identified as being particularly at risk were actively flipping, which is analogous to what bulimics do. This is more associated with flat race jockeys rather than other types, because they are generally (having to make] lighter (weights]. Some jockeys sit in saunas for up to three hours, or have very hot baths for two hours. They don't feel good when they come out, they feel microwaved. Other methods involve going on very punishing runs before breakfast and getting by on cups of tea with sugar, oranges and Jaffa Cakes which are relatively low-calorie. All jockeys engage in some of these behaviours, but some do so more than others," said Karageorghis.

The study also cited that while the average weight of apprentice jockeys has increased by about 37 pct since 1979, the minimum weight set for a flat race jockey has increased by just 6 pct. Thus jockeys are "compelled to employ increasingly extreme methods" to reach riding weights.

"Researchers have reported that jockeys suffer constant dehydration, inadequate body fat and bone density, and an increased risk of osteoporosis," stated the study.

According to the researchers, jockeys should be given more psychological support as they try to reach lower and lower weights.

"Governing bodies (of the sport] must continue to explore the possibility of increasing the minimum riding weight," they added.

The results of this study are published in the Journal of Sports Sciences. ("ANI)


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