Effects of racing surface and turn radius on fatal limb fractures in thoroughbred racehorses

Michael Peterson, Wayne Sanderson, Nurlan Kussainov, Sarah Jane Hobbs, Patti Miles, Mary C. Scollay, Hilary M. Clayton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


North American Thoroughbred racing is conducted on three types of surfaces—dirt, turf, and synthetic. The tracks are oval, and races are run counterclockwise. The loading on right and left limbs is expected to differ as a function of turn radius, banking, surface, and gait asymmetry. Hind limbs and forelimbs also have different functions related to propulsion and turning, respectively. This study uses the Equine Injury Database for race starts from 1 January 2009 through 31 December 2014, to compare injury rates across participating North American racetracks. The data are limited to catastrophic injuries in which horses died or were euthanized due to a fracture within 72 h of the start of the race. Overall injury rates were lower on turf and synthetic surfaces and the pattern of limb injuries in left vs. right and fore vs. hind limbs were different. Regardless of surface, forelimbs were more likely to fracture. Dirt surfaces showed higher rates of forelimb injuries compared to other surfaces, hind limbs were more likely to experience a fatal fracture on turf than on dirt. The left fore and right hind limbs were more likely to experience a fatal fracture but only on dirt surfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Article number539
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by a private donation from Bill Casner. Data and additional support were provided by the Jockey Club and affiliated organizations and by the non-profit Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory. Acknowledgments: Data cleaning and validation was performed by Peggy McKee, Kaleb Dempsey and John Peterson of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory. Data interpretation and assistance in the coordination of data sources was provided by Kristin Werner and Matt Iuliano of The Jockey Club. The horse turning figure was drawn by Becky Woodward.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Laterality
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Racetrack
  • Thoroughbred
  • Turning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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