Skip to main content

Notebook Sports

Breaking the stops to fix Barbaro


Breaking the stops to fix Barbaro

Why are leg injuries so dangerous in horses?

Barbaro's Triple Crown quest ended in a tragically short way when the Kentucky Derby winner pulled up lame just 100 yards into the Triple Crown's second leg, the Preakness Stakes. Barbaro's jockey, Edgar Prado, reported the horse seemed confident as it pulled into the starting gate. Moments later an ominous green curtain surrounded the champion horse on the track while stunned racing fans wondered if Barbaro would even emerge alive.

The champion horse suffered a catastrophic leg injury on the opening stretch. In medical terms: Barbaro broke three crucial bones below and above the ankle in his left rear leg. One bone below the ankle was shattered into more than 20 pieces. "It's about as bad as it could be," said veterinarian Dean Richardson, who operated on the horse at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center for Large Animals. "You do not see this severe injury frequently because the fact is most horses that suffer this typically are put down on the race track." Considering Barbaro's status as a champion colt, doctors operated for hours to try to save the horse's future as a studding stallion. "This is rare," he said.

Why are leg injuries so dangerous in horses? Humans with leg injuries can heal while in traction-not the case for horses. Many horses are put down with less serious leg injuries because broken bones can keep horses from standing, which leads to circulation problems and even diseases-such as laminitis-resulting from the inability to stand upright. In Barbaro's case, veterinarians operated for five hours to try to fuse bones in the champion horse's leg and create a cast that would both stabilize Barbaro's leg and allow him to stand on all fours.

After the operation, doctors reported that the horse could stand on all fours, but still only had a 50-50 chance of survival. It all depends on how the horse reacts to the cast. Despite his injuries, said hospital veterinarian Corrine Sweeney, the horse's mind was elsewhere: "He also showed appropriate interest in the mares, which means he's acting like a young colt should."

Around the Horn

Lesson for LeBron James: The regular season is one thing, the playoffs another, and a Game 7 versus the vaunted Detroit Pistons still another. The LeBron-led Cavaliers gave the Eastern Conference powerhouse Pistons all they could handle in the first half of their seventh and final game. But when Detroit began running two and sometimes three players at Mr. James on nearly every second-half play, neither King James nor his teammates could surmount the Pistons.

Honda Motors have come a long way in Indy racing since 1994. Then, in their first foray into the racing league, the only driver using a Honda engine decided to punt just before the Indy 500. But on May 28, all the cars racing in the Indy 500 will be powered by Honda engines. "We've gone the whole spectrum," said Robert Clarke, president of Honda Performance Development. "We were the first Japanese make there, we failed to qualify, were laughed out and now we own the entire starting field. We've gone full circle."

The SEC has a new million-dollar coach who doesn't even coach football. She's not even a he. The University of Tennessee made history when the school offered women's basketball coach Pat Summitt a raise to $1.125 million a year and extended her contract through the 2011-2012 season. Ms. Summitt is the all-time Division I leader for wins by a coach in either men's or women's basketball.