Sunday, March 22, 2020

Working to make racing safer

Can pre-race assessment reduce the risk of catastrophic fractures?

A two-day workshop, hosted in Newmarket by Jockey Club Estates, brought together veterinary experts from around the world.

They discussed methods available to identify subtle damage to the horse’s fetlock, that might go on to produce serious fractures if the horse raced.

On the first day, an expert panel discussed how diagnostic imaging prior to racing can contribute to reducing the risk of serious fractures during the race. Currently, radiography is the most widely available tool used to identify tiny fractures that will heal effectively, providing exercise is reduced.

Recent developments such as standing MRI, standing CT and PET scanning, could potentially identify pathology even earlier. 

The panel reviewed existing knowledge and discussed how to generate the research evidence, which is essential if these novel technologies are to gain a place in effective pre-race risk assessment programmes.
PET/CT: PET is the most recent advance in diagnostic imaging. It is being developed in California and, when combined with CT, provides information on bone activity and structure. In these 3 images of the same fetlock from different aspects, the orange spots indicate increased activity in the proximal sesamoid bone, which is a potential precursor to more serious injury. Image courtesy of Dr M. Spriet, University of California, Davis.
The following day a larger group of participants reviewed the expert panel’s conclusions and discussed the need for greater transparency, education and communication amongst the racing industry stakeholders, all of whom share responsibility for ensuring racing continues to collaborate and enhance racehorse safety and welfare.

Prof Celia Marr, Editor of Equine Veterinary Journal, who chaired the meeting said: “Racing has an excellent safety record and the injuries we are talking about are extremely rare. The low prevalence of fetlock injury makes it very difficult to pinpoint the affected individuals. But it is essential that we continue our efforts to do so ever more effectively because if silent injury is not detected it can progress to become much more serious.”

Pete Ramzan, Partner at Rossdales LLP, who co-ordinated the workshop said: “There was a great need to get some of the key experts leading these new technologies together in the same room to correlate their findings and work out how to translate them into tangible reductions in serious injury rates. One of the somewhat unexpected outcomes of the discussions was that despite the fact that we are riding the crest of a wave of technological advances, basic radiography still has much to offer; better education around the application and interpretation of radiographs has real potential to allow vets like myself at the coal face to detect injuries at an early and recoverable stage”.

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