In a post entitled, “CHRB Adopts New Limitations On Shock Wave Therapy”, on the Paulick Report website, it reveals:
The Board adopted a rule strictly limiting the use of extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) on racehorses. While this form of therapy may still be used to treat horses during non-racing periods, the new rule prohibits any horse from racing or even working in the mornings within 30 days of such treatment. ESWT can only be administered in clearly designated areas and each treatment must be carefully documented. Furthermore, no horse that received ESWT elsewhere can be brought to a CHRB-regulated facility without prior approval.
What is shock wave therapy?
Kentucky Equine Research tell us the following and more about this revolutionary treatment when it comes to horses:
Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) is a method of applying energy waves to hard or soft tissue in a particular area of the body. “Extracorporeal” refers to the fact that the treatment is given from outside the horse’s body, in contrast to oral medications, injections, or surgery that are considered more invasive.
Two types of shock wave machines, focused and radial, are available. Focused waves can be directed at a particular point and can penetrate further through soft tissue, while radial waves impact a larger but more shallow area. Because there is little tissue overlying most limb bones and joints, it is believed that radial waves have sufficient energy to reach many targeted areas, and the radial machine’s significantly smaller size makes it somewhat easier to transport and use.
ESWT commonly leads to improved circulation due to blood vessel dilation in and around the injured area. Growth of new blood vessels has also been recorded.
“One effect of shock wave therapy is a transient numbing of the nerves in the treated area. The numbness begins almost immediately after treatment and subsides slowly during the next two to four days, with some loss of nerve conductivity still detectable up to three weeks later.
“Professionals worry that horses raced or shown during this pain-free period may suffer more serious injuries . . . .”
Significant pain relief is almost immediately evident, although slight swelling and sensitivity may be noticed for a few days. ESWT also has a positive effect on the concentration of transforming growth factor beta 1, which stimulates cell activity. In addition, ESWT influences bone remodeling by thickening the outer layers and strengthening the cell network underlying joint cartilage.
The best results have been seen in horses with hock problems and proximal suspensory ligament injuries. Stress fractures, ringbone, navicular syndrome, back pain, and tendon injuries have been treated with variable results.
If it’s so useful, why is there controversy about it?
One effect of shock wave therapy is a transient numbing of the nerves in the treated area. The numbness begins almost immediately after treatment and subsides slowly during the next two to four days, with some loss of nerve conductivity still detectable up to three weeks later. Professionals worry that horses raced or shown during this pain-free period may suffer more serious injuries, possibly falling and endangering riders and other horses. Subtle movement changes caused by pain or injury are often a jockey’s clues that a horse needs to be eased or pulled up before the injury leads to breakdown. Jockeys have voiced serious concerns that horses racing within a day or two of ESWT may not exhibit these telltale gait changes.
The audio of the entire February 20, 2020 Board meeting is available on the CHRB Website (www.chrb.ca.gov) under the Webcast link.
• Horse racing regulators looking at whether shock wave treatments help performance, Jul 1, 2013, by f4H, Tuesday’s Horse
• RCI tightens model rule on shock wave therapy treatment of racehorses, Jul 25, 2012, by f4H, Tuesday’s Horse
• I’ll Have Another . . . shock wave therapy treatment please, May 14, 2012, by Jane Allin, Tuesday’s Horse