Research Sparks 2018: Dr SarahJane Cullen

Dr SarahJane Cullen speaking at Research Sparks 2018

Dr SarahJane Cullen speaking at Research Sparks 2018

An assistant lecturer in Exercise Physiology, Dr SarahJane Cullen is playing a pivotal role in sport science for jockeys in Ireland


SarahJane completed her PhD and postdoctoral research on a scholarship funded by The Turf Club focusing on the health and performance of jockeys, which is still the focus of her research. SarahJane was Tournament Nutritionist for the Women's Rugby World Cup held in Ireland in 2017. She was also part of Team Ireland's sport science and medical team at the holding camp for Team Ireland at the Olympic Games in Rio 2016 and London 2012.


As a weight category sport, jockeys engage in unhealthy and potentially dangerous rapid weight loss strategies to meet the stipulated racing weights. Many adverse health and performance implications have been reported. A Jockey Pathway has been developed in the horse racing industry to ensure jockeys receive appropriate education and support at the right time of their development and career to optimise health and performance. “We are conducting research projects relating to the physical demands of racing, bone health, mental health and injuries and falls to provide sport specific evidence based support to the jockeys in line with the Jockey Pathway”, she said.

Research story

Being part of the Turf Club Research Group, her research to-date, very much focuses on the health and performance of jockeys, incorporating a multidisciplinary approach. The research projects being conducted currently have been chosen to provide the essential information for the education and support strategies provided as part of the Jockey Pathway for jockeys in Ireland.

The 3 PhD projects currently being completed in WIT are:

  1. An investigation in the physiological demands of racing – without knowing the demands of racing, difficulties arise when attempting to prescribe nutrition and training guidelines , essential information for this weight category sport.
  2. Bone Health in Jockeys – a large proportion of jockeys have been reported to have poor bone health yet the most recent analysis was conducted in 2008 in Ireland. An updated analysis is required along with identification of the long term risks and intervention strategies to combat such adverse health risks.
  3. Mental Health in Jockeys – pilot work completed suggested a large proportion of jockeys are displaying symptoms of stress and depression. Further investigation into the prevalence and predictors of mental health issues along with the barriers to reporting mental health issues is being investigated.

Other research projects being completed include: falls and injuries in horse racing; gut health in jockeys; understanding, knowledge, perceptions and attitudes of concussion; current exercise and nutritional practices of jockeys.

SarahJane is also a Level 3 ISAK-accredited anthropometrist and is currently completing a MSc in Applied Sports Nutrition (part-time) in St Marys University, Twickenham. This has afforded her the opportunity to collaborate with Sport Ireland Institute and explore another area of interest focusing on the body composition of elite athletes in Ireland.

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Related Courses

Bachelor of Science (Honours) in  Exercise Sciences (Common Entry)
Bachelor of Science (Honours) in  Sports Coaching & Performance

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