Led by Dr. Abdulbari Bener of University of Qatar, researchers analysed the records of 275 boys treated for camel-racing injuries at one Qatar hospital from 1992 to 2003. Fifty-nine percent of the boys were less than nine years old - the youngest was five years old, the oldest fifteen.
Forty percent of the injuries were severe enough to require hospitalisation, with an average hospital stay of six days. The arms, legs, and head were the most common areas injured. Most of the injuries were caused by falls. The most severe injuries occurred when a camel fell on the thrown rider.
Nearly two-thirds of the injuries were classified as moderate or more severe. Seventeen of the boys were left with permanent disabilities, while three died. The true number of deaths is probably even higher - jockeys who died at the scene of the accident would not have been taken to the hospital.
The number of camel-racing injuries seen at the study hospital increased from 1992 to 2002 before dropping sharply in 2003, possibly in response to growing international concern over this cause of child injuries. No injuries were reported in 2005, when Qatar outlawed any involvement of children in camel racing.
Ninety-one percent of the boys in the study were Sudanese, brought to Qatar for the purpose of riding as camel jockeys. Camel racing is a popular sport throughout the Persian Gulf. Thousands of boys are trafficked from poor countries, sometimes as slaves, to serve as camel jockeys. As in horse racing, smaller, lighter jockeys are used to maximize speed. The boys live and work under harsh conditions, including restricted food to keep their weight as low as possible.
In the last few years, Qatar and other Persian Gulf countries have passed laws prohibiting the use of child jockeys. The United Arab Emirates has agreed to begin rehabilitating and repatriating boys brought to that country as jockeys. The same two countries are attempting to develop robotic camel jockeys.
MEDICA.de; Source: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins