Evidence-based training regimes the way forward in protecting key equine leg tendons, a review

POSTED ON  |  14-09-2020

The athleticism of the horse owes much to the superficial digital flexor tendons in the front legs. These energystoring tendons play a crucial role in the efficiency of the gallop and trot. However, they are highly susceptible to injury. Indeed, injuries to the superficial digital flexor tendons are one of the most commonly reported causes of lameness in the performance horse.

Researchers Claire O’Brien, Neil Marr and Chavaunne Thorpe, in a review published in the Equine Veterinary Journal, have explored the biomechanical and biothermal effects of strain on this key tendon and how they contribute to the accumulation of microdamage. The trio also explored the effect of age related alterations on strain response and subsequent injury risk to the tendon.

Given that tendon injuries are slow to heal and poor at regenerating tissue, prompt detection of early stages of problems and timely adaptations to training protocols are likely to have a better outcome than advances in treatment, they say. “Early screening tools and detection protocols could subsequently be of benefit in identifying subclinical signs of degeneration during the training programme.”

This, they say, would provide an opportunity for preventative strategies to be implemented to minimise the number of injuries and reduce recovery periods in elite performance horses. The authors, who cited 140 scientific papers in their review, said most superficial digital flexor tendon injuries occur during fitness work in training regimes.

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