Reasons for performing study: Physiotherapists who work in racehorse training yards routinely treat horses' backs and hindquarters and may be able to recognise signs that indicate the presence of (impending) pelvic or hindlimb fracture before it becomes catastrophic.
Objective: To establish whether physiotherapy assessment findings in Thoroughbred racehorses referred for routine physiotherapy could be predictive of subsequent (within 30 days) pelvic or hindlimb fracture diagnosis.
Methods: Retrospective veterinary and physiotherapy data from a cohort of Newmarket (UK) Thoroughbred racehorses, were used. A case-control study compared physiotherapy assessment findings of racehorses with and without a subsequently diagnosed pelvic or hindlimb fracture. Uni- and multivariable logistic regression was used to investigate and quantify the strength of association between physiotherapy findings and subsequent fracture diagnosis. Statistical significance was set at P<0.05.
Results: A total of 513 horses provided 14 fracture cases for analysis. Presence of pelvic bony asymmetry, muscle atrophy of the quarters, reduced reflex movements of dorsi- and/or ventroflexion and spasm or tenderness on palpation of the gluteal muscles were significantly associated with subsequent fracture diagnosis in univariable analysis. Multivariable analysis indicated that horses subsequently diagnosed with pelvic or hindlimb fracture were 11.1 times more likely to show pelvic bony asymmetry, 4.7 times more likely to display muscle atrophy of the quarters and 6.6 times more likely to have spasm or tenderness on palpation of the gluteal muscles than those that were not.
Conclusions: Racehorses presented for physiotherapy that show pelvic bony asymmetry, muscle atrophy of the quarters and/or spasm or tenderness on palpation of the gluteal muscles should alert the physiotherapist to the potential presence of (impending) pelvic or hindlimb fracture.
Potential relevance: Earlier detection of (impending) pelvic or hindlimb fracture in racing Thoroughbreds could reduce the incidence of catastrophic fractures.