They may relieve pain in the short-term, but local corticosteroid injections are associated with a significantly increased rate of injury in Thoroughbred racehorses, according to research from Australia.
University of Melbourne researchers reviewed the records of 1,911 racehorses, 392 of which had been given an injection of a corticosteroid into a muscle, joint, tendon or ligament. They found that the rate of a musculoskeletal injury requiring at least six months of rehabilitation or necessitating retirement in horses who received corticosteroid injections was four times that of horses who had not. In addition, that risk was heightened when more than one injection was performed. What’s more, the data showed that the rate of injury did not return to pre-injection levels for 49 days after treatment.
The researchers note that these findings “most likely had to do with the progression of the musculoskeletal condition which prompted treatment” and that any benefits of a corticosteroid injection were “insufficient” to nullify the increased risk of injury.
Reference: “Musculoskeletal injury rates in Thoroughbred racehorses following local corticosteroid injection,” Veterinary Journal, April 2014
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #443.