Clinical findings and prognosis of interference injuries to the palmar aspect of the forelimbs in Standardbred racehorses: A study on 74 cases

Equine Vet J. 2018 Nov;50(6):759-765. doi: 10.1111/evj.12836. Epub 2018 Apr 18.


Background: Information on interference injuries in racehorses is lacking.

Objective: To describe clinical findings and prognosis of palmar forelimb interference injuries in Standardbreds.

Study design: Retrospective cohort study.

Methods: Records of 74 racehorses sustaining palmar forelimb interference injuries were studied; 7 occurred during training and 67 during racing. The number of starts before injury, hind shoeing status, gait penalties and racing speeds in cases occurring during racing were compared with negative controls (67 age, sex and speed category matched horses) from the same races. The number of starts and racing speed in 30 racing days preceding recruitment were compared with those following recruitment (negative controls) or return to racing (cases). Clinical aspects and outcome in interference-induced superficial digital flexor (SDF) tendonitis were compared with 77 horses with overstrain-induced SDF tendonitis.

Results: In 89% of cases, there was SDF tendonitis and this was associated with a longer time to return to racing (6 months vs. 1 months; P<0.001). The presence of gait penalties (odds ratio (OR) 11.13; 95% CI 3.74, 41.64; P<0.001) and unshod hind feet (OR = 6.26, 95% CI 2.26, 19.62; P<0.001) increased risk of interference injuries. After recruitment/return to racing, horses with interference injuries participated in a lower number of races (24 starts per racing day, interquartile range [IQR] 20-32) compared with controls (49, IQR 43-55, P<0.0001). Interference-induced tendonitis cases (n = 58) had a shorter time to return to racing (245 ± 137 days) than overstrain-induced tendonitis cases (331 ± 118 days, P<0.001).

Main limitations: Data were collected retrospectively; time of ultrasonographic assessment varied and health status of the racing controls is unknown.

Conclusions: SDF tendonitis is common with palmar forelimb interference injuries in Standardbreds and increases time to return to racing. Interference-induced SDF tendonitis has a better prognosis than overstrain-induced tendonitis.

Keywords: Standardbred trotters; horse; interference injuries; lacerations; racehorses; traumatic tendonitis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Forelimb / diagnostic imaging
  • Forelimb / injuries*
  • Gait
  • Horses / injuries*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Running / injuries
  • Shoes
  • Tendinopathy / complications
  • Tendinopathy / veterinary
  • Time Factors
  • Ultrasonography / veterinary