Saunas will be removed from all jockeys' quarters in Britain as part of a long-term programme to modernise weighing rooms that has been developed by a cross-industry group of jockeys, racehorses and the British Horseracing Authority. Weighing room saunas have been closed as part of Covid safety measures since the onset of the pandemic, and 88% of jockeys polled support their removal.
Dr. Jerry Hill, BHA chief medical adviser, said, “Saunas have been out of operation throughout the pandemic, which has presented the opportunity for a wider discussion about their long-term future in the context of making weight safely. Acute dehydration, such as that following sauna use, shortly before racing has been shown to reduce performance as it has a negative impact on reaction time and strength. There have been reports of increased falls and by extension injuries in jockeys who have suddenly dehydrated to make weight.
“There are safe and effective methods of maintaining weight healthily through fitness and nutrition and this bespoke support is available to jockeys through the PJA Nutrition Team as well as at the IJF Centres.”
A set of minimum standards drawn up for jockeys' quarters also includes additional private changing and shower facilities; shared communal rest, food provision and warm-up areas for jockeys; communal working space for valets, and flexibility to adapt changing room sizes for demand.
Racecourse Association Chief Executive David Armstrong said, “The RCA welcomes the announcement of the long-term plan to upgrade weighing rooms across Britain's 59 racecourses. This presents a significant milestone and many months of hard work by the PJA, RCA, BHA plus jockey and racecourse representatives.
“The initial stage of meeting all ongoing safeguarding requirements is due to be completed by February, which will include the welcome removal of saunas. The outcome of this project will be the creation of significantly improved weighing and changing room facilities that are in keeping with other elite and professional sports.”