Also Known As
Stifle joint injuries
The complexity of the stifle joint in horses lends itself to many different problems. The horse's stifle is composed of three joints, three patellar ligaments, and the cruciate ligaments. When working in concert, the equine is inherently stable, but trauma, rapid changes in direction, and rapid deceleration create pressure that may lead to injury. Because of the size and relatively open structure of the stifle, swelling often develops in the joint. Severe stifle injuries are frequently complicated by fractures.
- Thickening of distention of the joint
- Exercise intolerance
- Locked kneecap
Stifle injuries may be caused by direct trauma to the joint or by stress to the joint area from performance activities that include quick changes in direction, rapid deceleration, and repeated jumps. Such trauma may occur during roping, cutting, reining, barrel racing, and, of course, jumping.
Prevention of stifle injuries is dependent on keeping the horse from suffering direct trauma to the stifle joint and by not pushing a horse beyond its capabilities, especially in performance activities. Since the stifle joint is complex and difficult to evaluate radiographically because of its mass, surrounding tissue, and soft tissue structures, owners and handlers need to be watchful for possible stifle injuries and act promptly when injuries are suspected.
Treatment follows a definitive diagnosis usually obtained by a veterinarian using a number of tools to evaluate the stifle joint. Digital x-rays, ultrasound, and curvilinear ultrasound probes can be used to obtain images of the collateral ligaments, meniscal surfaces, and other components. Once diagnosed, stifle injuries are treated in much the same way as tendon or ligament injuries in other areas of the horse.
A period of rest to resolve the swelling will allow the joint to begin healing. If the joint capsule is stretched, but not ruptured, recovery is possible given two to three months of rest with a gradual return to activity. In the case of collateral ligament and cruciate ligaments, treatment is often unsuccessful, and the joint becomes unstable and subject to arthritis accompanied by chronic lameness.
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