Common lesions of the distal end of the third metacarpal/metatarsal bone in racehorse catastrophic breakdown injuries

Jennifer G. Janes, Laura A. Kennedy, Katherine S. Garrett, Julie B. Engiles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Equine catastrophic skeletal breakdown injury is a serious issue within the racing industry, given the impact on equine and human health. The metacarpo- and metatarso-phalangeal (fetlock) joints are common sites of catastrophic injury. However, lesions involving articular cartilage, subchondral bone, and synovium are commonly identified within the fetlock of the contralateral limb; hence, it is imperative that lesions in both limbs are evaluated and characterized during postmortem examination. Bone and articular cartilage changes typically occur in specific locations, related to cyclic fetlock load and overextension during high-speed exercise. Associations between preexisting degenerative fetlock lesions and catastrophic injury are a focus of continued research. These lesions often occur because of adaptive failure related to cumulative damage. Further investigation of these lesions is imperative to determine their impact on equine performance or injury. Ultimately, consistent documentation of catastrophic versus non-catastrophic osteochondral lesions provided by pathologists, in the context of training history, diagnostic imaging, and the presence or absence of catastrophic injury, will contribute to further understanding of skeletal responses associated with catastrophic failure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-436
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © 2017 The Author(s).


  • Articular cartilage
  • catastrophic injury
  • racehorses
  • third metacarpal bone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Veterinary (all)


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