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Sporting Scene - Under the Radar - Gracilis Without Tears 18-04-2013

Sporting Scene - Under the Radar - Gracilis Without Tears 18-04-2013

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Published by mjaharvey

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Published by: mjaharvey on May 12, 2013
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Gracilis Tears
 There is a very human temptation for us veterinary surgeons tothink that we have all the answers but, truth to tell, the evidence tosupport some of our assumptions and ideas as to the cause of manyfamiliar greyhound injuries is often decidedly thin. This isparticularly true in the case of the much-dreaded gracilis muscleinjury, questions about which were raised this week by a veteransupporter of the Winter Game who hails from the Royal County. The gracilis muscle in the dog forms an extensive broad muscularsheet that lies directly below the skin on the hindermost part of theinside of the dog’s thigh. One end of it is attached to the undersideof the dog’s pelvis and the other is attached to the inside of the topof the tibia, the bone that lies between the stifle, or knee joint, andthe hock. The action of the gracilis muscle is to draw the hind leginwards towards the midline. It also extends the hip joint, drawingthe upper part of the hind leg backwards. In the racing greyhound itplays a particularly important role in extending the hock joint,making it more straight.If you even wondered where the gracilis got its name, the story goessomething like this. Latin was at one time the international languageof educated men in general and of scientists in particular, and thuswas used to name the various organs and tissues of the body.Gracilis in Latin means ‘slender’ and this muscle is so namedbecause in man it takes the form of a narrow strip of muscle tissue. The corresponding muscle in dogs is given the same name,although slender it is it not. There you have it, Rupture of the gracilis muscle is the mostcommon major muscle injury in the racing greyhound. The conditionmay vary considerably in severity, with the muscle being rupturedpartially or completely. The muscle may be damaged almostanywhere along its length, for example close to where it is joined tothe dog’s pelvis. Such ruptures of the muscle high up in the groinare generally the most serious. Partial or complete rupture may alsooccur in the fleshy “belly” of the muscle. Rupture further down thethigh tends to be less serious. Partial tearing of the posterior edge of the muscle in this area is a common injury. Gracilis tears usuallyinvolve one leg only, although simultaneous injury of both legs is notunknown. Sometimes a dog returning to the track having recoveredfrom injuring the gracilis muscle in one leg soon afterwardsdamages the corresponding muscle in the other leg. The exact cause of gracilis tears is not known. Statistical workcarried out in England suggests they are more common in dogs thanin bitches, but that might just mean they are more common in biggreyhounds than small ones. They are more common in older race
dogs than in young ones. A survey of muscle injuries in greyhoundsrunning on Florida tracks a few years ago suggested that most weredetected either at the first bend or in the home straight. Our friendwished to know if it was wise to keep for breeding a bitch who hadhad recurring gracilis tears during her racing days. In other words heis asking if there some sort of hereditary predisposition to gracilistears that might reappear in subsequent generations. Looking atthe bigger picture, it would be interesting to know more about theheritability of a wide range of specific racing injuries. Although wisermen than me have speculated that any genetic element in thecausation of such injuries is probably pretty small, without a greaterunderstanding of the causes of muscle injuries, it is very hard toconfirm or deny this hypothesis. If we look for a moment at thegreyhound population as a whole, we can see that on the one handa very large number of dogs are descended from a handful of popular fashionable sires and that on the other there are a verylarge number of brood bitches most of which have only a very fewprogeny. Overall there are little enough data available to analyse totry and identify patterns of inheritance. Taking a pragmatic view, if Ihad a decent bitch who had ruptured her gracilis muscle and wasfinished for racing, I would not be afraid to take a litter off her andsee how they turned out.Without a better understanding of the causes of muscle injuries it ishard to give much sensible advice about their prevention. Howeverwarming dogs up prior to racing is generally worthwhile. Greaterforce is required to injure a warm muscle than a cold one andmuscle-tendon junctions stretch better when warm, reducing therisk of injury. After racing a cooling down period of low intensityexercise such as walking may also prove beneficial. The usual history that accompanies a gracilis tear is of a dogrunning rather poorly, well below known form, but usuallycompleting the race or trial. Some are not very obviously lamealthough others will show a shortened stride in the affected leg anda cramped gait. Examination post race usually reveal a doughyswelling on the inside of the thigh of the affected leg. Bruising maybe evident as may disruption of the muscle itself. Sometimehowever these are not very obvious in the hot dog post race andbecome much more evident at home twelve to twenty-four hourslater.At the track and in the short term at home, treatment generallyinvolves non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and the applicationof cold compresses. “
From what I have experienced
” ourcorrespondent writes ”
and read in various reports, the chances of repairing the damage is in the long term remote”.
There are twobasic approaches to the treatment of gracilis tears, the surgical andthe conservative. Generally however conservative treatment is onlylikely to be a success in the case of very minor injury to the origin or

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