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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • Thoroughbred;
  • racehorse;
  • third metacarpal/metatarsal bone;
  • condyle;
  • fracture

Summary

Reasons for performing study: Although fractures of the metacarpal and metatarsal condyles are the most common long-bone fractures of Thoroughbred horses in training, limited data on variations in morphology and incidence have been published. Additionally, grouped analyses of previous studies from the UK and USA would permit comparison between study groups and the creation of a substantial pool of international data.

Methods: Retrospective analysis of case records of horses with fractures of the distal condyles of third metacarpal/metatarsal bones seen over the last 10 years at Newmarket Equine Hospital. The current series was compared with a prior series from the UK; pooled analyses of these, and series from the USA were also compared.

Results: One hundred and seventy-four fractures were identified in 167 racehorses. The current series contained a significantly lower proportion of medial condylar fractures than in a similar population 17 years earlier. Fractures that originated more abaxially tended to be shorter, and a significant proportion of lateral condylar fractures arose outside of the condylar groove. There was also some apparent seasonality of fractures of the lateral condyles in 2-year-old horses, but not so in older horses or those with medial condylar fractures.

Conclusions and potential relevance: A substantial portion (approximately 50%) of fractures in the present series cannot be explained by unifying theories of aetiopathogenesis, which suggest that fractures usually arise within the condylar groove, as a focus of cumulative fatigue and failure of adaptation of bone. A separate aetiopathogenesis may be responsible for a proportion of condylar fractures encountered in racehorses, and further work is required to elucidate this. Changes in the number of medial condylar fractures encountered may reflect the introduction of artificial racing and training surfaces, and also may reflect changes in the age demographic of horses racing in the UK since the introduction of year-round ‘all-weather’ racing.