Detection and prevention of bone injuries

The Victorian racing industry will spend more than $5 million on research aimed at the detection and prevention of bone injuries in racehorses.

University of Melbourne researchers will undertake a three-year study to better identify horses that may be at risk of serious bone injury, which is often fatal in racehorse.

The State Government’s Victorian Racing Industry Fund will provide $2.25 million while Racing Victoria and the University of Melbourne will supply $1.6 million and $1.4 million respectively.  The research will attempt to produce a mathematical model of bone injury that trainers and other industry stakeholders can use to guide their racing and training decisions.

A statement announcing the funding asserts the research will:

• Examine pressure and loads in the lower limbs
• Investigate the processes surrounding bone fatigue
• Seek to understand bone modelling and re-modelling in horses both in training and at rest
• How distances and speeds affect bone fatigue
• Collect data on horse injuries

University of Melbourne’s Professor Chris Whitton, a leading researcher into bone injuries and fractures in horses said the work could help in the lessening of instances of bone injuries in the future.

“At the moment, bone injuries are regarded as an inevitable consequence of training, but this needn’t be the case,” Professor Whitton said in a statement.  “If we can unravel the intricacies of the bone’s response to stress and exercise; and detect bone damage early, it’ll go a long way to preventing long-term injury and fatalities.

“Bone fractures are the most common cause of fatal injury in horses during training and racing and the key aim of our research is to investigate how we can minimise this risk.  The funding will go towards new equipment that will improve bone imaging, investigate bone mechanical and structural properties, and measure the loads generated in a horse’s limb while galloping.”