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Vet J. 2009 Aug;181(2):79-89. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2008.02.009. Epub 2008 Apr 10.

The pathobiology of exercise-induced superficial digital flexor tendon injury in Thoroughbred racehorses.

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School of Veterinary Science, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia.


Despite the high incidence of superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) injury in racehorses, the pathobiology of the condition is not clearly defined. The SDFT improves locomotor efficiency by storing elastic energy, but as a result it has low mechanical safety margins. As with the Achilles tendon in humans, rupture during athletic activity often follows accumulation of exercise and age-induced degenerative change that is not repaired by tenocytes. There is limited understanding of tenocyte biology and pathology, including responses to high mechanical strains and core temperatures during exercise. Unfortunately, much of the current information on SDFT pathology is derived from studies of collagenase-induced injury, which is a controversial model. Following rupture the overlapping phases of reactive inflammation, proliferation, remodelling and maturation do not necessarily reconstitute normal structure and function, resulting in long-term persistence of scar tissue and high re-injury rates. Tissue engineering approaches are likely to be applicable to SDFT lesions, but will require significant advances in cell biology research.

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