UC Davis Studying Humerus, Scapula Fractures

Researchers seek warning signs that often lead to catastrophic breakdowns in horses.

Dr. Erin McKerney, in collaboration with Dr. Susan Stover from the J.D Wheat Veterinary Orthopedic Research Laboratory at the University of California-Davis, is conducting a study to better understand the events that lead to catastrophic fractures of the humerus and scapula in racehorses.

Such injuries can happen suddenly, unexpectedly, and often without warning to horses. Complete fractures of the scapula and humerus are almost always fatal. But when recognized early, the predisposing incomplete stress fractures can heal and horses are able to successfully return to racing.

The purpose of the study is to determine if there are any warning signs, no matter how subtle, that could be indicative of humeral or scapular stress fractures and impending catastrophic fracture. Better knowledge of any signs leading up to fracture will help trainers and veterinarians work together to identify mild injuries and prevent fatal results.

The study will be conducted by phone survey of trainers. The information will be kept strictly confidential, and will be summarized in anonymous form for use by trainers and veterinarians to aid injury prevention. This study is done in concert with California Horse Racing Board's Racing Safety Program.

The program commenced in July 2010 with a mission to reduce the incidence of debilitating and fatal injuries in horses at California racetracks and training facilities. The Racing Safety Program is also designed to enhance the welfare of jockeys and exercise riders.