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Comparing racing performance following arthroscopic surgery of metacarpophalangeal/metatarsophalangeal and carpal joints in Thoroughbred racehorses rehabilitated using conventional and underwater treadmill therapies
  1. Korin N Potenza1,2,
  2. Nick A Huggons1,
  3. Andrew R E Jones1,
  4. Sarah M Rosanowski3 and
  5. C Wayne McIlwraith4,5
  1. 1San Luis Rey Equine Hospital, Bonsall, California, USA
  2. 2Trifecta Equine Athletic Center, Bonsall, California, USA
  3. 3Equine Veterinary Consultants, EVC Global Limited, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  4. 4Gail Holmes Equine Orthopedic Research Center, Department of Clinical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
  5. 5Equine Medical Center, Cypress, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Korin N Potenza, San Luis Rey Equine Hospital, Bonsall, CA 92003, USA; potenza{at}


Background Rehabilitation of horses using underwater treadmill therapy has been shown to improve joint range of motion, joint mobility, stride length and proprioceptive parameters with experimental studies. However, studies investigating the prognosis and return to function following rehabilitation are lacking.

Methods A retrospective study of Thoroughbred racehorses treated with arthroscopic surgery for osteochondral fragments of the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) or metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joints or carpal joints undergoing conventional rehabilitation or underwater treadmill assisted rehabilitation at the same facility were included. The objective of the current study was to investigate if underwater treadmill assisted rehabilitation following arthroscopy in the Thoroughbred racehorse was positively associated with returning to racing, time to return to racing and postoperative racing performance including Beyer Speed Figures.

Results Surgery was performed on 165 horses on 174 surgical occasions; 70 (40.2 per cent) underwent underwater treadmill rehabilitation, with the remainder undergoing conventional rehabilitation. The time to return to racing was a median of 227 (IQR 185–281) days and 239 (IQR 205–303) days for underwater treadmill and conventional rehabilitation, respectively (P=0.16). Of the horses that raced presurgery, 83 per cent (58/70) of underwater treadmill rehabilitated horses and 61 per cent (63/104) of horses undergoing conventional rehabilitation returned to racing following surgery (P=0.02).

Conclusion Underwater treadmill rehabilitation is superior in returning a Thoroughbred racehorse to racing following arthroscopic surgery of the carpus and/or MCP/MTP joints.

  • horses
  • underwater treadmill
  • arthroscopic surgery
  • racing performance
  • rehabilitation
  • Beyer Speed Figure
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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. Statistical data analysis from Sarah Rosanowski. ORCID 0000-0002-7950-0029.

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