Biomarkers are substances present in blood that laboratories can check for when investigating a disease or change in tissue metabolism. There has been considerable interest in using biomarkers in performance horses, in attempts to pick up on looming injuries at an early stage.
A study published in the Equine Veterinary Journal looked at biomarkers in a total of 130 two- and three-year-old racehorses. There were monthly lameness exams and monthly blood draws to check the levels of 7 biomarkers for bone and tendon/ligament injury.
Of these 130 horses, 59 developed injuries. Comparison of the biomarkers showed a clear difference between those that remained sound and the injured. Furthermore, obvious changes in biomarker levels occurred before the horse was obviously lame 73.8% of the time.
Bottom Line: The ?took a bad step? or ?accident? theory of how high-performance horses get hurt never made much sense. Evidence is steadily mounting that serious injuries are actually the end result of a process where tissues are injured and never have a chance to heal, leading to weaknesses and more serious injury just waiting to happen.
The discovery that blood biomarkers can accurately predict almost ? of impending serious injuries adds further support to the cumulative injury mechanism.
Most importantly, it could prove to be an efficient tool that trainers and regulatory bodies can use to prevent injured horses from racing and other strenuous sports.