Being Short Staffed –the straw that broke the camel’s back!

How many did you muck out today, ride out or feed? Yesterday I heard of someone that mucked out 35 and fed 105. How long can one person sustain this type of workload and what is the impact on their body?

Every day I treat people working in the horse racing industry who have physical jobs. Chronic injuries are part and parcel (to an extent).

Over the last few years I have noticed that workloads have increased significantly due to staff shortages. Chronic injuries are at epidemic levels.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2019/may/14/talking-horses-new -study-finds-unsustainable-workloads-in-horse-racing

As a sports therapist the pattern of injury I see specifically is when an individual has to work on their weekend off or work that extra race meeting due to staff shortages and……… ‘Boom’ you’ve guessed it, it’s the straw that really did break the camel’s back! And that’s when they end up on my couch. A significant portion of their wage packet being forked out because they haven’t had that all important day and a half off out of fourteen to recover.

Chronic lower back pain and shoulder impingements are of the most common issues I see. Both which require a degree of rest from painful activities – but alas not in racing!

Many people leave racing at least in part because they feel that their bodies just cannot sustain the workloads long term (I know, they’ve told me!). This creates a tougher environment for the individuals left behind as they are having to make up the shortfall. And thus every pursuing injury happens a little sooner than the last as workloads increase and the next staff member hangs up their boots for a less physical role.

In addition as a nation we are seeing a population of young people with lower base fitness levels than ever. This is due to increases in automation coupled with poor diet and lifestyle choices. So the individuals coming into racing are more likely not to be fit for purpose, and are expected to take on greater workloads (as well as being Millennials!)…… and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to predict the end result.

So what next? Chronic injuries are just one result of the staffing crisis. Housing, pay, amongst other issues all play their part too. Some trainers have confronted these situations head on creating far better working environments like good quality staff accommodation. Although this doesn’t directly impact on injury status. Will trainers have to consider investing in injury prevention for staff like they do for their horses?

Would you welcome injury treatments as part of a stable staff employment package? Let me know your thoughts. Comment, like, share.

If you work in racing and are struggling with an injury you can get in touch with Racing Welfare at racingwelfare.co.uk

Can sporting success be predicted by an individual’s approach to injury?

Racing has just been given the green light as we work to pull our economy from the brink post lockdown. As always there are some big named jockeys bordering on being fit to ride in some big meetings post injury. This gives high hopes to some of their counterparts coming up through the ranks. But what are the qualities needed to get those jockeys back to full fitness and remain at the top of their game?

I write this with one particular jockey in mind, a jockey that walked into Oaksey House about 10 years ago to (eventually) get (a little) help with a chronic injury. He was a natural athlete, a talented rider (a tamer of bears in fact!), and tough, really tough. And at the time I remember thinking that we were starting this rehab process about 6 years too late. A jockey that was deserving of so much more – RIP Banksy.

So can sporting success be predicted by an individual’s approach to injury? Yes I think it can give a good indication.

Why am I so sure of myself? Because I’ve worked with thousands of people going through the rehab process. Over time I have seen patterns arising differentiating the more successful individuals from the rest of the pack.

Take jockeys, I see particular attributes in the more successful individuals:

  1. They’re tough but not too tough. They don’t complain about every single niggle but when there is something significant to address they address it and sooner rather than later. One of the best indicators of future injury is previous injury. So getting niggles fixed before they become bigger issues enables the jockey to maintain fitness, weight and psychological wellbeing; as well as futureproofing their bodies for the long-haul!
  2. They have a good ‘team’ around them and they accept help from and allocate tasks to ‘the team’. This could be in the form of family members, a spouse, friends and or work colleagues. The team can help with all types of emotional and practical support from being that listening ear to driving them to their rehab sessions. This allows the individual to focus on the practicalities of being a jockey recovering from injury.
  3. And perhaps the biggie, the all-encompassing but rarely discussed aspect of achieving sporting success and staying injury free involves childhood experiences. Were individuals taught how to ask for help? Were they listened to as children? Were they taught that their feeling were important too? A little deep? Not really! Getting the balance correct in the early years will set individuals up for life. Get it wrong and the cracks will start to develop.

So often I meet incredibly tough, capable, hard-working people who lack one or more of these 3 elements of success. Because of this doors just don’t open. The qualities that make them as amazing as they are also stop them from getting right to the top of their game.

So, be realistic about your injuries. Be tactical with your rehab. Build a team around you to help offload pressures both physical and emotional. And ultimately if you aren’t great at asking for help – learn quickly because without this ability achieving your potential will become a very difficult task.

If you’re a jockey and need to start the rehab process get in touch with The Injured Jockeys Fund at ijf.org.uk

What’s your experience? Do you ignore or address your injuries? Comment, like, share.

Rural Life (Covid-19) & Exercise Habits

The New Year’s resolutions should have been in full swing and that beach body should now be honed …..but Covid-19 has kind of put a spanner in the works. All this down time may allow you to think more closely about what facilities are really available to you from a location and financial perspective and which are the best options to allow you to achieve your fitness goals.

Living and working in rural areas can mean the choices available to you are limited especially when taking into account our biggest barrier to exercise – lack of time. Time spent travelling to your preferred destination means time not exercising. And when life is already hectic you need to think tactically when choosing where to exercise.

There have been some massive shifts in the fitness industry since I first started out as a personal trainer creating more choice for the user and keeping prices competitive. So if you haven’t yet donned the Lycra, hold fire and let’s look at some of the options available.

Perhaps the ‘Waitrose’ option would be a David Lloyd gym (davidlloyd.co.uk) encompassing swim, gym, classes, coaching, kids clubs and treatment facilities under one roof – great (I hear you gasp). But they’re not always local, local and you’ll be paying over £1000/year. If you’re still excited by this option do check the class timetables fit around your life before parting with your cash!

Council run facilities can be a good ‘Tesco’ option. Just note that if you’re situated in the middle of two different counties (as we are in Lambourn) membership of one facility won’t allow you to use sites run by another council.

Personal trainers are dotted around. You can find prospective PT’s on the Register of Exercise Professionals (exerciseregister.org) or CIMSPA (cimspa.co.uk). Check prospective PT’s are registered so you know insurances and qualifications are up to date.

And if you want to get involved in a specific sport you can go to the National Governing Body website sportengland.org where you can search for a recognised sport’s contact information.

Social media platforms like Facebook can be a great tool in deciphering whether classes and activities in rural areas are right for you.

And if you don’t have the funds or the time get onto You Tube and try something like ‘Yoga with Adriene’ (yogawithadriene.com). Classes are approx. 20 minutes and at 6.01M subscribers she must be doing something right!

So don’t let a lack of finances, time or a rural location stop you from achieving your exercise goals. Let us know what sporting activities you’ve been involved in and what you’d like to have a go at next.