Dubai: Denis Egan, the chairman of the International Conference for the Health, Safety and Welfare of Jockeys, hailed the eighth edition of the summit, which was held in Dubai last weekend as a noteworthy success and significant step forward in making the sport overall safer.

Speakers from 16 countries, including first timers Belgium, Norway and the Philippines, addressed a wide range of topics from injury statistics, surveillance and prevention, mental health and equipment updates during the two-day event which was sponsored by Al Basti Equiworld and held at Meydan Hotel.

It was the third time that the biennial conference, which was first held in 2006 under the auspices of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, has been hosted in Dubai.

Egan, who is also the chief executive of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, noted that while horseracing safety has progressively improved there was still a lot of work to be done to cut down on injuries and casualties.

“The big session on Day 2 focused on injuries and falls and it was noted that jockey injuries in North American racing are not well understood and that on average, two jockeys die each year due to injuries sustained during racing,” he told Gulf News.

Falls and injuries are common in the sport, which is considered one of the most dangerous occupations, with statistics revealing that there is an average one fall for every 250 rides.

However, Egan was of the view that racing has certainly become significantly safer than it was 50 years ago and that summits like this and the issues dealt with at the event have gone a long way to finding ways to improve the safety aspect.

He said that the first session focused on the importance of accurate injury surveillance as ‘it is the foundation for the design, development and refinement of successful injury prevention and risk production strategies.’

“The situation regarding the standard of helmets in Europe and the introduction of new helmet standards was also discussed and it was noted that despite the best efforts of the various parties it has been impossible to get the European commission to approve the standard, which is not good for racing,” Egan said.

Mental health and athlete burnout is a major issue in sport and the conference found out that most jockeys are completely unprepared for the transition from racing to life-after. Research also found that half the jockeys suffer some form of mental health issues.