Sports medicine—rooting for the horses

All across Cornell University’s campus, students attend classes; staff and professors work in offices or labs. Meanwhile, at any given moment, on the northeast edge of campus, Norm G. Ducharme, Clinical Sciences, may be performing surgery on a 1,200-pound, pedigreed sport horse. Or he may be watching a race horse run 40 miles per hour on a huge treadmill set in the floor of a hangar-like room. He may be scanning the latest international race and sporting results, to guess if his treatments have worked.

The horses Ducharme treats have diseases of the upper respiratory system, which are surprisingly common and troublesome in horse athletes. “We basically do sports medicine for horses,” he says. Ducharme and collaborators were able to make big strides in their research when, in the 1980s, they began studying and treating actual competitors (versus research horses), where the respiratory diseases naturally occurred. Trainers and owners have been bringing their horses to Cornell ever since.

As he treats some of the fastest, most agile and graceful competitors, Ducharme is also working to understand why these diseases occur, how to better diagnose them, and how improvements in treatment can restore the horses to health and competition.

Visit the Cornell Research website to read the rest of the story. 

by Caitlin Hayes