Reasons for performing study: Superficial digital flexor (SDF) tendinopathy is a common injury in Thoroughbred horses racing over hurdles. Identification of risk factors may allow the introduction of measures to minimise the incidence of this injury.
Objective: To identify risk factors for SDF tendinopathy in Thoroughbred horses in hurdle races in the UK.
Methods: Potential risk factors for SDF tendinopathy were studied between 1 January 2001 and 31 December 2009 using a retrospective cohort study design with 1031 case starts and 168,637 control starts. Potential risk factors were screened using univariable logistic regression prior to multivariable model building.
Results: In the final multivariable model, 20 statistically significant risk factors were identified. Variables found to be associated with increased odds of SDF tendinopathy included: firmer going; increased horse age at first race; having had a previous SDFT injury; and racing in the summer compared to other seasons. Variables found to be associated with decreased odds included: being trained by a more successful trainer; and having raced more frequently in the preceding 9–12 months.
Conclusions: This study identified multiple risk factors associated with SDF tendinopathy, some of which are difficult to explain with the current data source. Factors resulting in increased cumulative horse and tendon fatigue (increased years in racing; carrying increased weight; and racing over longer distances), firm ground, and the presence of previous tendon injury should be considered when attempting to reduce the likelihood of sustaining SDF tendinopathy.
Potential relevance: The results will facilitate the development of strategies to improve the overall safety of horses in hurdle racing in the UK.