North American Thoroughbred racing is conducted on three types of surfaces—dirt, turf, and synthetic. The tracks are oval, and races are run counterclockwise. The loading on right and left limbs is expected to differ as a function of turn radius, banking, surface, and gait asymmetry. Hind limbs and forelimbs also have different functions related to propulsion and turning, respectively. This study uses the Equine Injury Database for race starts from 1 January 2009 through 31 December 2014, to compare injury rates across participating North American racetracks. The data are limited to catastrophic injuries in which horses died or were euthanized due to a fracture within 72 h of the start of the race. Overall injury rates were lower on turf and synthetic surfaces and the pattern of limb injuries in left vs. right and fore vs. hind limbs were different. Regardless of surface, forelimbs were more likely to fracture. Dirt surfaces showed higher rates of forelimb injuries compared to other surfaces, hind limbs were more likely to experience a fatal fracture on turf than on dirt. The left fore and right hind limbs were more likely to experience a fatal fracture but only on dirt surfaces.
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This work was supported in part by a private donation from Bill Casner. Data and additional support were provided by the Jockey Club and affiliated organizations and by the nonprofit Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory.
Data was obtained from The Jockey Club (Available online: http://jockeyclub.com/pdfs/eid_11_year_tables.pdf). Restrictions apply to the availability of the data.
Peterson, Michael L.; Sanderson, Wayne T.; Kussainov, Nurlan; Hobbs, Sarah Jane; Miles, Patti; Scollay, Mary C.; and Clayton, Hilary M., "Effects of Racing Surface and Turn Radius on Fatal Limb Fractures in Thoroughbred Racehorses" (2021). Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Faculty Publications. 239.