The Harry M. Zweig Memorial Fund for Equine Research

Factors Associated with Musculoskeletal Injuries and Catastrophic Events in Racing Horses

Principal Investigator: Hussni Mohammed
Contact Information: Email:; Phone: 607-253-3566
Project Costs: $148,337
Project Period: 1/1/2016-12/31/2017






Dr. Hussni Mohammed

The broad objective of our proposed study is to identify factors that predispose horses to the risk of musculoskeletal injuries (MIs) and catastrophic events (CEs) during racing at the New York State Thoroughbred Racing Tracks (NYSTR) with the aim of recommending cost-effective strategies to mitigate the associated losses. This objective will be addressed through the following systematic and complementary specific aims: 1) determine the incidence and nature of MIs and CEs among horses racing at the NYSTR as well as the associated factors; 2) identify modifying factors that predispose horses to this risk of MIs and CEs; and 3) examine the concentrations of hyper-phosphorylated neurofilaments (pNF-H) as biological marker for neuronal injuries and a predictor of predisposing factor to racetrack injuries while accounting for the role of oxidative stress.

We are planning to carry out a series of complementary epidemiologic studies in collaboration with the veterinary staff at NYSTR tracks and The Jockey Club to address the stated aims. First, we will carry out an ambidirectional study that includes both retrospective and prospective components to determine the incidence and nature of MIs and CEs among thoroughbred horses raced at NYSTR and the factors associated with these conditions. In the retrospective component of this study we plan to review the performance records of horses that raced at any of the NYSTR during the 2014 and 2015 racing seasons. The prospective components will include horses that will race at NYSTR during the 2016 and 2017 racing seasons. Horses experiencing MIs or CEs during these two follow-up periods will be identified and the incidence and nature of MIs and CEs computed. Available data on risk factors that are hypothesized to predispose horses to the risk of MIs and CEs will be collected and analyzed for significance of association with the particular condition.  Secondly, a nested case-control study will be used to identify factors that causally predispose horses to the risk of MIs and CEs. Cases will include all horses identified in the prospective component (racing during the 2016 and 2017 seasons) of Aim I with the diagnosis of MIs or experienced CEs. Controls will be enrolled from the equine population identified in the prospective components and matched with cases based on the race at which a case is identified. Data on factors hypothesized to predispose horses to the risk of MIs or CEs will be collected from cases and controls and analyzed for significance using multivariate statistical techniques. Thirdly, we will examine the serum levels of pNF-H and determine if they correlate with the severity of MIs. Neurofilaments levels will be measured in cases and control horses identified in Aim II. The significance of association between the markers and the risk of MIs or CEs will be evaluated using conditional logistic regression analysis.

Knowledge gained through the proposed studies will be critical for the development of recommendations and strategies to minimize wastage among racing thoroughbred horses and for the adoption of risk mitigation strategies and guidelines.