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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • Thoroughbred;
  • racetrack;
  • injury;
  • logistic regression;
  • risk factors

Summary

A retrospective case-control study was conducted to identify and quantify risk factors for serious musculoskeletal injury sustained at 4 Australian metropolitan racetracks. During the period of study (August 1988-July 1995) there were 196 cases from flat racing, 52 cases from hurdle racing and 53 cases from steeplechases. The incidences of fatal musculoskeletal injuries per start for flat, hurdle and steeple races were 0.06, 0.63 and 1.43% respectively. Logistic regression identified harder track surfaces, horses being older than age 3 years, one racecourse (Flemington) and jumping races as significant risk factors which increased the risk of musculoskeletal breakdown. The incidence of fatal musculoskeletal injuries for flat races at the 4 study tracks was similar to that reported in the UK but less than the USA. Death rates for hurdle and steeple races in the study population were higher than in the UK. Strategies to reduce the incidence of serious musculoskeletal injuries may include avoidance of excessively hard track surfaces through closer regulation of track moisture content; implementation of more rigorous prerace lameness examinations of horses, particularly older horses; and altering the design and number of jumps in hurdle and steeple races. The quantification of risk, as we have reported here, is the first step towards addressing the causes of musculoskeletal breakdown and should help in applying a reasoned approach to intervention measures that may be effective in reducing racing injuries.