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Tendon & Ligament Injuries‹ Full Conditions List

Every breed and riding discipline has its own set of tendon and ligament injuries, but across the board there are four major structures in the forelimbs that are most commonly injured. Tendons and ligaments are made from the same basic tissue and have the same basic structure. The tissue is a very strong fibrous material that groups together in bundles, forming long cords. Tendons join muscle to bone and as a result, when the muscle contracts, the bone moves. Most tendons are designated as either flexor or extensor. Flexor tendons allow a joint to bend inward, towards the body (joint closes), and extensor tendons allow a joint to extend (joint opens). Ligaments join bone to bone. They are stabilising structures that essentially hold bones together and stop them from overextending, over flexing or over rotating. There are four main tendons and ligaments at the back of the horse’s leg that do the majority of the work: suspensory ligament, inferior check ligament, deep digital flexor tendon and the superficial digital flexor tendon. In a horse’s forelegs, these four structures are the most commonly injured. When injury does occur in these structures, the infamous “bowing out” along the back of the leg is visible—in layman’s terms, the horse has a bow.

Most of these injuries occur in the forelimbs since they bear 60 percent of the horse’s weight and are therefore most prone to being overloaded. Of all of the tendon and ligament injuries that can occur, the inferior check ligament is the least severe. The role of this ligament is to help stabilise the leg during weight bearing. Inferior check ligament injuries often cause a large swelling but little pain or lameness. The superficial digital flexor tendon is responsible for stability and flexion of the lower leg. When this tendon is injured, there is generally some lameness but even severe damage may not be career ending. The deep digital flexor tendon is a workhorse of a tendon. It not only stabilises the leg during maximum load (full weight bearing) but also flexes all of the lower leg joints during hoof flight. If it is significantly damaged lameness, heat, pain and swelling are present and it could be career ending. Suspensory ligament injuries are the most serious and can be the hardest to treat. Like the deep digital flexor tendon an injury here causes lameness and swelling. The job of this ligament is to stabilise the leg during maximum load. It stops the fetlock from dropping to the ground.

SyncThermology's tendon and ligament monitoring service can help to detect breakdown 2-4 weeks prior to structural lesions becoming present. The technology's ability to measure inflammatory processes at an early stage can help to identify the initial stages of breakdown and provide a method of preventative detection for performance horses.

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