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US Synthetic Tracks Show Lower Fatality Rate
In the US, horses running on artificial surfaces "suffer fatal injuries at a statistically significant lower rate than horses running on dirt courses, according to epidemiologists who have analysed data collected for a project tracking equine injuries" reported sports.espn.go.com. According to an analysis of 754,932 starts over a 2-year period ending on 31 October 2010, horses running on artificial surfaces "suffered fatal breakdowns at a rate of 1.51 per 1,000 starts, compared to a fatality rate of 2.14 breakdowns per 1,000 starts on dirt"; the overall rate of fatalities over the course of the study was 2.00 breakdowns per 1,000 starts. Although the raw fatality rate for artificial surfaces "has consistently been lower than the fatality rate for dirt courses", epidemiologists examining the data collected previously "had said that the difference had not been statistically significant due to a relative lack of data"; officials said "that has changed with the collection of additional data over the last 6 months". Dr Tim Parkin (a veterinarian & epidemiologist from the University Of Glasgow who has been retained by the US Jockey Club to analyse the data for a project that has been called the Equine Injury Database) commented: "The addition of 376,000 starts to the database in Year 2 enabled us to statistically validate certain trends seen in the data." Officials involved in the study "have not offered any reasons as to why the fatality rates differ". Biomechanical studies of artificial surfaces "have demonstrated that horses' limbs are subjected to less force & stress when galloping over synthetic tracks, but some horsemen have claimed those studies ignore a higher rate of soft-tissue injuries on artificial surfaces"; no studies "have yet demonstrated a higher rate of soft-tissue injuries". The analysis also showed that horses running over turf courses suffer fatalities at a rate of 1.74 horses per 1,000 starts. The analysis also showed:
- 2YOs suffered catastrophic injuries at a rate of 1.51 horses per 1,000 starts;
- 5YO horses "were the most likely age group to suffer a fatal injury" at 2.45 horses per 1,000 starts;
- fatality rates "continue to be unaffected by the distance a horse races or the weight it carried in the race";
- fillies & mares racing in open races "did not suffer fatalities at a higher rate than other horses".