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Risk factors for and outcomes of noncatastrophic suspensory apparatus injury in Thoroughbred racehorses

Ashley E. Hill DVM, MPVM1, Susan M. Stover DVM, PhD, DACVS2, Ian A. Gardner BVSc, MPVM, PhD3, Albert J. Kane DVM, MPVM, PhD4, Mary Beth Whitcomb DVM5, and Alex G. Emerson6
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  • 1 J. D. Wheat Veterinary Orthopedic Research Laboratory, Department of Anatomy, Physiology, and Cell Biology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.
  • | 2 J. D. Wheat Veterinary Orthopedic Research Laboratory, Department of Anatomy, Physiology, and Cell Biology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.
  • | 3 Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.
  • | 4 Equine Sciences Program, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523.
  • | 5 J. D. Wheat Veterinary Orthopedic Research Laboratory, Department of Anatomy, Physiology, and Cell Biology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.
  • | 6 Veterinary Teaching Hospital, College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849.

Abstract

Objective—To evaluate effects of toe grabs, exercise intensity, and distance traveled as risk factors for subclinical to mild suspensory apparatus injury (SMSAI) in Thoroughbred racehorses and to compare incidence of severe musculoskeletal injury (MSI) in horses with and without SMSAI.

Design—Nested case-control study.

Animals—219 Thoroughbred racehorses racing or in race training.

Procedure—Racehorses were examined weekly for 90 days to determine incidence of suspensory ligament injury and monitor horseshoe characteristics. Every horse's exercise speeds and distances were recorded daily. Conditional logistic regression was used to compare exposure variables between incident case (n = 25) and selected control (125) horses. Survival analysis was used to compare time to MSI for horses with (n = 41) and without (76) SMSAI.

Results—The best-fitting logistic model for the data included age (< 5 vs ≥ 5 years old), toe grab height the week of injury (none vs very low, low, regular, or Quarter Horse height), and weekly distance the week preceding injury (miles). Although the 95% confidence intervals for all odds ratios included 1, the odds for SMSAI appeared to increase with the presence of a toe grab, higher weekly distance, and age ≥ 5 years. Horses that had SMSAI were significantly more likely to have a severe MSI or severe suspensory apparatus injury than were horses that did not.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that pre-existing SMSAI is associated with development of severe MSI and severe suspensory apparatus injury. Modifying training intensity and toe grab height for horses with SMSAI may decrease the incidence of severe MSI. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001; 218:1136–1144)

Abstract

Objective—To evaluate effects of toe grabs, exercise intensity, and distance traveled as risk factors for subclinical to mild suspensory apparatus injury (SMSAI) in Thoroughbred racehorses and to compare incidence of severe musculoskeletal injury (MSI) in horses with and without SMSAI.

Design—Nested case-control study.

Animals—219 Thoroughbred racehorses racing or in race training.

Procedure—Racehorses were examined weekly for 90 days to determine incidence of suspensory ligament injury and monitor horseshoe characteristics. Every horse's exercise speeds and distances were recorded daily. Conditional logistic regression was used to compare exposure variables between incident case (n = 25) and selected control (125) horses. Survival analysis was used to compare time to MSI for horses with (n = 41) and without (76) SMSAI.

Results—The best-fitting logistic model for the data included age (< 5 vs ≥ 5 years old), toe grab height the week of injury (none vs very low, low, regular, or Quarter Horse height), and weekly distance the week preceding injury (miles). Although the 95% confidence intervals for all odds ratios included 1, the odds for SMSAI appeared to increase with the presence of a toe grab, higher weekly distance, and age ≥ 5 years. Horses that had SMSAI were significantly more likely to have a severe MSI or severe suspensory apparatus injury than were horses that did not.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that pre-existing SMSAI is associated with development of severe MSI and severe suspensory apparatus injury. Modifying training intensity and toe grab height for horses with SMSAI may decrease the incidence of severe MSI. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001; 218:1136–1144)