2002 Volume 13 Issue 2 Pages 41-56
Superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) injury leading to tendonitis is the most frequent soft tissue injury in racehorses. As tendonitis has been noted to heal slowly and imperfectly, injured tendons require long periods of rest, and the rate of recurrence of tendonitis upon return to training is high. Between 1, 100 and 1,200 of the 6,400 to 7,000 racehorses currently registered with the Japan Racing Association (JRA) suffer from tendonitis, and some 70% of these return to racing without making a comeback in a single race. In view of this statistic, the JRA has conducted investigational and clinical research from various perspectives. This paper will review the results of these studies, thus providing insight into practical methods of treating and preventing tendonitis. The study results are summarized under the following headings: 1) Introduction; 2) Impacts and loads on the lower limb at the track; 3) Occurrence of tendonitis at JRA training centers; 4) The hoof and tendonitis; 5) Ultrasonic diagnostic criteria; 6) Therapeutic regimens; 7) Conclusion. We concluded that tendon injuries represent irreversible structural alterations that are unlikely to be significantly altered by therapy, so that the best outcome may be achieved by minimizing the damage done by the original injury. From this viewpoint, research efforts will be directed toward prevention and early diagnosis, rather than therapy of established lesions.