Studies reveal injury rates in greyhound & horse racing

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2010:
(Actual press date November 3.)

SOMERVILLE, Mass.–The Massachusetts-based anti-greyhound
racing organization Grey2K USA on October 14, 2010 embarrassed the
Iowa greyhound racing industry for the second time in two years by
publishing an analysis of injuries to racing greyhounds.
Like the 2009 Grey2K report, the 2010 report is based on
data reported to the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission. The 2009
report detailed injuries suffered by 101 greyhounds during 2008,
including 10 greyhounds who were euthanized due to the severity of
their injuries.

The 2010 Grey2K report makes clear that 2008 was actually
safer for racing greyhounds in Iowa than most years. Altogether,
Grey2K found, greyhounds suffered 530 injuries at the two remaining
Iowa tracks between January 2006 and August 2010.
Broken legs accounted for 57% of the reported injuries. The
remainder involved a range of other conditions. Other fractures,
muscle tears, and pulled muscles were next most common. 17% of the
injuries–almost twice the rate found in 2008–resulted in euthanasia.
Grey2K USA earlier in 2010 reported that the injury rate at
the Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack in West Virginia was the
highest at any track it had investigated, with more than 700
injuries to dogs occurring between January 2008 and September 2009,
resulting in 62 dog deaths or euthanasias.
The Grey2K findings were affirmed in August 2010, when the
Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack suspended racing to begin a
$400,000 track overhaul.
“Records filed with the West Virginia Racing Commission show
the number of injuries jumped from an average of 19 per month last
year to 27.4 per month for the first seven months of this year,”
reported Associated Press writer Vicki Smith. “The rate of
catastrophic injuries that a dog would not survive nearly doubled,
from 2.1 injuries per 100 races in January to 3.8 per 100 races in
Built in 1976, the Wheeling Island track was last
refurbished more than 20 years ago.
The horse racing industry has also been repeatedly
embarrassed in recent years by documentation of high rates of injury,
but data presented by University of Glasgow epidemiologist Tim Parkin
in June 2010 at the third Jockey Club summit on racehorse welfare and
safety called into question how much track surfaces really have to do
with the frequency of injuries.
The Parkin study “includes information from most racetracks
in the United States and Canada,” reported Associated Press writer
Jeffrey McMurray, and “covers more than 86% of all flat-racing
starts and steeplechase races between November 1, 2008 and October
31, 2009.”
However, McMurray explained, “The results cast little light
on one of the hottest debates in horse racing: whether injuries
would drop dramatically if dirt tracks converted to a synthetic or
rubberized surface. Synthetic tracks did have the lowest fatality
rate of any surface tested in the study, 1.78 fatal injuries for
every 1,000 starts, but Parkin said it was impossible to draw any
conclusions. For dirt tracks, the fatality rate was 2.14 per 1,000.
Turf tracks showed an injury rate of 1.78 deaths per 1,000
starts–the same as synthetic tracks.”
In addition, McMurray wrote, “The study found the distance
of a race and the weight carried by a horse had a statistically
insignificant effect on the injury rate.”
The largest factors in racehorse injury emerging from
Parkin’s analysis were the age and gender of the horses.
Explained McMurray, “The study showed colts were fatally
injured at a rate of 3.18 times out of every 1,000 starts, with an
even higher rate (4.06 per 1,000) for older male horses that hadn’t
been gelded. The rate was much lower for fillies (1.84 fatalities per
1,000 starts) and mares (1.66 per 1,000).”
Both critics and defenders of horse racing often attribute
high injury rates to people who race their horses too often, too
young, but the Parkin study found that two-year-old horses had a
rate of suffering fatal injury of only about half the rate found
among five-year-olds.

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