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Objective—To identify race-start characteristics associated with catastrophic musculoskeletal (MS) injury in Thoroughbred racehorses at 2 racetracks in Florida during 1995 through 1998.

Design—Matched case-control study.

Animals—97 Thoroughbreds (case horses) that incurred a catastrophic MS injury during racing and 388 Thoroughbreds (control horses) randomly selected from noninjured participants and matched on the basis of racetrack and year.

Procedure—Incidence of MS injury was calculated for all race meets at 2 racetracks in Florida from 1995 through 1998. Race-start characteristics were compared among case and control horses, using conditional logistic regression.

Results—Overall incidence of MS injury was 1.2/1,000 race starts (97/79,416 starts). Incidence of injury was significantly higher for turf races (2.3/1,000 starts) than for dirt races (0.9/1,000 starts). Sex, number of days since last race, and racing surface were associated with risk of injury; geldings, ≥ 33 days since the last race, and turf racing surface were associated with a higher risk of injury.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Incidence of injury among Thoroughbreds in Florida was associated with sex, number of days since last race, and racing surface. Days since last race may have been an indicator of previous health and lameness problems. Racing surface may have been a risk factor for MS injury because turf races tended to be more competitive than dirt races. Horses running in turf races were more likely to participate in races with a large field, handicap races, long races, and races with high purses. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;218:83–86)

Full access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association


Objective—To evaluate horseshoe characteristics and high-speed exercise history as risk factors for catastrophic musculoskeletal injury in Thoroughbred racehorses.

Animals—377 horses (37,529 race starts).

Procedure—Shoe characteristics included material, toe grab height, heel traction device, pads, and rim shoes. Racing variables were obtained from a computerized database. Forty-three horses that had a musculoskeletal injury and then failed to race or train for 6 months (cases) and 334 noninjured horses from the same race in which a horse was injured (controls) were compared regarding risk factors.

Results—Overall, 98% of race starts were associated with aluminum shoes, 85% with toe grabs, 32% with pads, and 12% with rims on forelimb horseshoes. Among 43 horses with musculoskeletal injury, sex (geldings), an extended interval since last race, and reduced exercise during the 30 or 60 days preceding injury were risk factors for catastrophic injury. Odds of injury in racehorses with toe grabs on front shoes were 1.5 times the odds of injury in horses without toe grabs, but this association was not significant (95% confidence interval, 0.5 to 4.1).

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that horses that return to racing after an extended period of reduced exercise are at high risk of catastrophic musculoskeletal injury. Results regarding the use of toe grabs as a possible risk factor for catastrophic injury were inconclusive because the probability of declaring (in error) that use of toe grabs was associated with an increased risk of musculoskeletal injury (eg, odds ratio > 1.0) was 38%. (Am J Vet Res 2005;66:1314–1320)

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in American Journal of Veterinary Research


Objective—To determine changes in the distal ends of the third metacarpal and metatarsal bones (MCIII and MTIII) of Thoroughbred racehorses that had sustained a catastrophic condylar fracture during highspeed exercise.

Sample Population—Fractured and contralateral MCIIIs and MTIIIs from 11 Thoroughbred racehorses that sustained a displaced condylar fracture during racing, both MCIIIs from 5 Thoroughbred racehorses euthanatized because of a catastrophic injury other than a condylar fracture, and both MCIIIs from 5 horses of other breeds that had not been professionally trained or raced.

Procedure—Macroscopic observations were made of the distal ends of the bones before and after digestion of the articular cartilage with NaOH.

Results—In all 11 racehorses with a displaced condylar fracture, the fracture was associated with a branching array of cracks in the condylar groove. In this region, fracture margins were smooth, and there was loss of subchondral bone. Comminution of the dorsal cortex was also seen. Parasagittal linear wear lines in the articular cartilage, erosions in the articular cartilage of the condyles, loss of the underlying subchondral bone, and cracking of condylar grooves were all more severe in the Thoroughbred racehorses than in the horses that had not been professionally trained or raced.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that condylar fractures in horses are pathologic fatigue or stress fractures that arise from a preexisting, branching array of cracks in the condylar groove of the distal end of MCIII or MTIII. (Am J Vet Res 2003;64:1110–1116)

Full access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research