Repeat After Me: Study Shows Biomarkers Again Linked To Injury Risk In Thoroughbreds

by | 03.01.2019 | 8:43am

Orthopedic injuries in racehorses are responsible for nearly 70 percent of lost training days; these injuries have an impact on equine welfare and income generated from racing. Injury diagnosis and prevention has been at the forefront of racehorse research, and a new study has again shown that serum biomarkers in bone and cartilage can be linked to a heightened risk of musculoskeletal injuries.

For the three-month long study, Drs. Anna Cywinska, Agnieszka Turlo and David Frisbie used 26 2-year-old Polish Thoroughbred racehorses that were in the care of three different trainers; the horses trained and raced on turf. The horses were trained six days a week; they were sound and had no previous injuries. They had no abnormalities in a blood panel that was drawn.

Blood was drawn once a month for four months, and serum concentrations of bone and cartilage were noted. During the research, six horses were deemed “injured,” meaning they had to see a vet and lost more than five consecutive training days at the vet's recommendation. Two other horses did not complete the study because of poor performance.

The scientists used archived data from 35 2-year-old racehorses in North America as controls to identify injury predictors. The biomarkers in the injured Polish Thoroughbred group was lower than the archived data, which is consistent with other studies.

The researchers suggest that the balance of bone synthesis and resorption is disrupted in the Polish Thoroughbreds, leading to the loss of bone mechanical resistance. This could lead to a stress-related injury, they have determined. None of the changes that were seen in the Polish Thoroughbreds were seen in the North American racehorses used as controls.

The scientists noted that they had expected the results to reveal how environmental differences may affect the use of biomarkers as an injury predictor. Horses trained in European training methods may be more pron to bone turnover disruption, shown by the differences in the bone serum levels. It is believed that the track surface on which horses train can be an underlying cause of the difference in bone metabolism in Polish and North American racehorses.

Cartilage markers were similar in both injured and healthy racehorses no matter where the horse was from; the researchers note that these are more-accurate predictors of approaching injury. The study team recommends that biomarker data should be used in conjunction with clinical exams and diagnostic imaging for meaningful results.

Read more at HorseTalk.

The study can be read here.

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