Reason for performing study: Catastrophic biaxial proximal sesamoid bone fractures (PSBF) have not yet been described in detail in the UK racing population.
Objectives: To determine the incidence and relative risk (RR) of PSBF in different types of racing in the UK; and to describe horse-level characteristics and racing histories of horses sustaining these injuries.
Methods: Distal limbs were collected from all racehorses suffering catastrophic fractures during racing at all 59 racecourses in the UK, in a prospective study from February 1999 to December 2004. Post mortem investigation identified the anatomical location and type of fracture. Horse, racing history, race and racecourse details were obtained. Characteristics of the horses that sustained PSBF were described. The incidence and RR of PSBF in the different types of racing in the UK were calculated.
Results: Thirty-one horses suffered PSBF during the study period. The incidence of PSBF in all types of race was 0.63 per 10,000 starts (31/494,744). The incidence was highest in flat races on all weather surfaces (1.63 per 10,000 starts: 12/73,467; RR = 4.4 when compared to turf flat racing). Affected horses had an average age of 5.6 years and had started a mean of 28 races at the time of fracture.
Conclusion and potential relevance: There is a strong association between type of racing surface and PSBF. Horses competing in flat races on all weather surfaces have an increased risk of PSBF. These fractures appear to happen in experienced horses with several starts, with few fractures occurring within the first season of racing. Further research should focus on identification of underlying pathology of these fractures. Epidemiological studies aimed at the identification of risk factors for PSBF in the UK racing population would require a large number of cases acquired over many years given the relatively low incidence of PSBF.