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Effects of exercise on biomechanical properties of the superficial digital flexor tendon in foals

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  • 1 Department of Equine Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, NL-3584 CM Utrecht, The Netherlands.
  • | 2 Present address is Department of Veterinary Surgery, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Kasetsart University, Nakronpathom 73140, Thailand.
  • | 3 Department of Equine Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, NL-3584 CM Utrecht, The Netherlands.
  • | 4 Present address is École National Vétérinaire d'Alfort, 7, Avenue du Général de Gaulle, 94704 Maisons-Alfort, Cedex, France.
  • | 5 Department of Equine Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, NL-3584 CM Utrecht, The Netherlands.
  • | 6 Department of Equine Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, NL-3584 CM Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Abstract

Objective—To determine the effects of exercise on biomechanical properties of the superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) in foals.

Animals—43 Dutch Warmblood foals.

Procedure—From 1 week until 5 months of age, 14 foals were housed in stalls and not exercised, 14 foals were housed in stalls and exercised daily, and 15 foals were maintained at pasture. Eight foals in each group were euthanatized at 5 months, and remaining foals were housed together in a stall and paddock until euthanatized at 11 months. After euthanasia, SDFT were isolated and fit in a material testing system. Mean cross-sectional area (CSA) was measured and traction forces recorded. Normalized force at rupture (forcerup), normalized force at 4% strain, strain at rupture, stress at 4% strain (stress4%strain), and stress at rupture were compared among and within groups.

Results—At 5 months, mean CSA and normalized forcerup were significantly greater and stress4%strain significantly less in the pastured group, compared with the other groups. At 11 months, CSA and normalized forcerup were not significantly different among groups, because forcerup increased significantly from 5 to 11 months in the nonexercised group and decreased significantly in the pastured group.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Exercise significantly affected the biomechanical properties of the SDFT in foals. Evenly distributed moderate- and low-intensity exercise at a young age may be more effective for development of strong, flexible tendons in horses than single episodes of high-intensity exercise superimposed on stall rest. This effect may impact later susceptibility to SDFT injury. (Am J Vet Res 2001;62:1859–1864)

Abstract

Objective—To determine the effects of exercise on biomechanical properties of the superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) in foals.

Animals—43 Dutch Warmblood foals.

Procedure—From 1 week until 5 months of age, 14 foals were housed in stalls and not exercised, 14 foals were housed in stalls and exercised daily, and 15 foals were maintained at pasture. Eight foals in each group were euthanatized at 5 months, and remaining foals were housed together in a stall and paddock until euthanatized at 11 months. After euthanasia, SDFT were isolated and fit in a material testing system. Mean cross-sectional area (CSA) was measured and traction forces recorded. Normalized force at rupture (forcerup), normalized force at 4% strain, strain at rupture, stress at 4% strain (stress4%strain), and stress at rupture were compared among and within groups.

Results—At 5 months, mean CSA and normalized forcerup were significantly greater and stress4%strain significantly less in the pastured group, compared with the other groups. At 11 months, CSA and normalized forcerup were not significantly different among groups, because forcerup increased significantly from 5 to 11 months in the nonexercised group and decreased significantly in the pastured group.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Exercise significantly affected the biomechanical properties of the SDFT in foals. Evenly distributed moderate- and low-intensity exercise at a young age may be more effective for development of strong, flexible tendons in horses than single episodes of high-intensity exercise superimposed on stall rest. This effect may impact later susceptibility to SDFT injury. (Am J Vet Res 2001;62:1859–1864)