Check Ligament injuries
This month’s topic for the blog is check ligaments and check ligament injuries.
You may have had a horse or been involved with a horse with one of these injuries, if you have, you’ll know they can be tricky to manage.
So the anatomy….
The check ligament is a strong ligament which attaches from the back of the carpal bones and blends with the flexor tendons (Superficial SDFT and deep DDFT) on the caudal (back) aspect of the leg, the check apparatus and the suspensory apparatus together prevent the horse from over-extending at the fetlock. These ligamentous complexes are designed to take a lot of strain and depending on your discipline are susceptible to injury at varying rates.
So how do check ligament injuries occur?
There are a few reasons why your horse may develop a check ligament injury. The first may be the conformation of your horse, however, this doesn’t mean that horses of a certain type will ALWAYS develop such injuries it just means that given their conformation and their job they may be more LIKLEY to develop such injuries if not managed correctly.
The second reason is due to training or workload errors. Unfit horses can develop check ligament injuries if strenuous activity is undertaken without sufficient prior fitness and conditioning. Sometimes when bringing a horse back into work after a period of inactivity we think about their fitness as how well their heart and lungs work, forgetting that the rest of the body undergoes significant adaptation too. It so important to make sure the whole of your horse is ‘fit enough’ for what you want it to do.
Another reason may be due to an already fit horse undergoing too much stress for its tissue type. Think of it as a human who is being asked to work hard day in day out and only being allowed to sleep 4-6 hours, eventually something has to give. The same pattern is recognisable in horses, if the horse is being worked ‘hard’ or training for a purpose however something in their daily or weekly routine is missing, for example sufficient nutrients or recovery time they tissue quality may be compromised.
So how can physiotherapy help these injuries?
Your Veterinary Physiotherapist can help with these injuries in multiple ways throughout the recovery process and in preventing these sorts of injuries, and each case will vary depending on you, your horse and your horse’s job.
We are able to assess the whole horse, the way they move and whether they are showing signs of pain which can be really useful in spotting early changes when detecting injuries. We look at their gait (Walk, trot and being lunged) along with their posture and how they use their body. That’s why it’s advisable to have physiotherapy appointments a few times year, more if you compete regularly- just like getting your saddle and teeth checked.
If you have a horse that has been diagnosed by your vet with a check ligament injury then we can assist in tissue healing in the early stages with electrophysical agents and advice on how to manage the injury. We can also help to keep the rest of your horse feeling comfortable, following an injury you might notice your horse moving differently or compensating to avoid further damage, this can cause muscle pain, discomfort or tension which may further impact the recovery process.
We also assist in getting your horse back to fitness or getting back in the saddle, our depth of knowledge and training allow us great understanding of tissue loading and recovery which mean we can advise you on when to progress, maintain or reduce workload to get the best outcome possible.
This is just a whistle stop tour of Check ligament injuries but if you have any further questions about how physio could help with any of the stages of recovery or in prevention of such injuries please get in contact.