The first and most important reason to provide for a safe running surface is to protect the Greyhound from race related injuries, but the surface also influences many other aspects of the racing industry. Greyhound racing injuries are a primary concern to the Greyhound industry for both humane reasons and economic reasons. With today’s general concern for the humane treatment of animals, it is important that the public be assured that everything possible is being done to minimize the incidence of injury. Also, with the investment that is involved in preparing a Greyhound for a racing career there is a definite economic loss when a racing injury occurs. When a greyhound is injured there is an initial cost of treatment and rehabilitation, which is on top of the fact that when a Greyhound is injured, he or she can not produce an income due to the rehabilitation time.
A proper racing surface also provides an even competitive field and a consistent racing environment. This assures the betting public that the race outcomes are based upon the running skills of the Greyhound. A consistent track maintenance program provides for healthy handicapping. The end result is a satisfied betting public. The racetrack benefits from the profit derived from the positive public experience. Therefore, prevention of racing injuries is beneficial not only to the greyhound itself, but also to the owners, trainers, track regulators, and racetrack owners.
It is the role of the Sports Medicine Veterinarian to find ways to minimize potential injuries of their patients. There are two major influences upon injuries of the racing greyhound, the trainer and the racetrack. The trainer maintains and monitors the health of the greyhound. The racetrack is where the Greyhounds perform their activity. A safe racing environment is created through proper track design, correct surface content ratio, and proper track maintenance.
Factors that Influence Greyhound Performance & Injury
One way to help prevent racing injuries is to provide a safe and consistent racing surface. A knowledge of injury mechanisms, or factors, that relate to running, aids in the prevention of injuries. The factors that affect performance, and subsequently the risk of injury of the Greyhound, can be divided into internal and external factors (Table 1). The internal factors that affect the Greyhound are their anatomy, physiology, and psychology. These factors are influenced by genetics, the breeder, and the trainer. The genetic factors predetermine a Greyhounds performance potential and potential to injury. The breeder influences the maturation of the Greyhound. The trainer manages the racing career.
The external factors that affect the Greyhound are the environment, dog interaction, the lure, track design, and the racing surface. Environmental factors can include rain, humidity, altitude, and others. Dog interaction can come in the first turn, Ginny Pit, or the kennel. The lure type and distance from the dog can affect how the Greyhound runs. Track design issues include the length of the straightaway, and the radius and bank of the turn. The racing surface is influenced by the contents that compose its makeup and its depth. The key influence on racing surface is track maintenance.
Table 1. Factors related to the injury and performance of the racing Greyhound
|Internal Factors||External Factors|
There is minimal control over dog interaction. During the race the Greyhounds can come into contact with each other. It is important that they are able to navigate themselves around the track so that they are less likely to bump into each other or get out of balance. Out of balance or out of control running places abnormal forces upon the musculoskeletal structure. The forces will predispose the Greyhound to injury. A loose track does not provide traction, which lessons the Greyhound’s ability to control itself. The problems related to dog interaction are reduced when the Greyhound is able to steer itself while running.
The racetrack operator has control over the other external factors. They are responsible for designing the track and selecting the surface content. The lure operator controls how the lure is run and management is in charge of track maintenance.
Two ways to assess the racing surface are by using injury reports or by analyzing the surface. Injury reports can be used to determine the status of the racing surface. If there is a rise in injuries the racing surface should be considered as a possible cause. Certain injuries are related to various surface problems. This is a controversial way to assess the racing surface because changes to the track occur after the injuries have occurred. The surface itself can be analyzed for changes or problems. The content can be analyzed or base measurements can be determined. This method is better in preventing injuries.
Racetrack Analysis by Injury Reports
No racing related injuries should be the goal of any racing facility. The track management program should be designed to meet this goal. Once this goal is accepted, it should be recognized that injuries can occur in any sporting or working environment. In a survey reported by Bloomberg and Dugger, there were 761 injuries reported for a total of 47,323 races ran at sixteen racetracks between the years of 1984-1990. Eight Greyhounds run in a race, so the total number of greyhounds competing one time or more included in this survey were 378,584. This means that the injury ratio is 0.2%.
This number of injuries is miniscule, when compared to figures from the field of human sports medicine. Sports Injuries Online, a website developed to provide sports medicine information, reports that sports injuries are the leading cause of unintentional injury in children and youth and peak at 42% annually for people aged 15 to 24. They also report that sport Injuries represent a significant public health concern accounting for 23% of all traumas. When a comparison is made between human athletes and canine athletes, it shows that Greyhound racing is a very safe sport. This should not change the goals of management, they should still strive for zero racing-related injuries.
Each racing facility regulatory veterinarian should keep a record of racing injuries. If a sudden increase in numbers occur, the racing surface should be evaluated for surface alterations. There can be seasonal variation in injury numbers, but these will be documented by the injury records. Certain track conditions will produce injuries related to that condition. Table 2 describes the types of injuries related to certain track conditions.
Table 2. Injury types seen with certain track conditions
|Track Condition||Hard Track||Soft Track||Inconsistent Track|
Assessing the racing surface using injury reports is one way to assess racetrack status. It requires little effort by the individuals involved and requires minimal knowledge of the racetrack mechanics. Its drawback is that the injuries have occurred before any evaluation is possible.
Racetrack Analysis by Surface Evaluation
Once the basic information is accumulated to understand the normal paw-to-surface interaction the racing surface can be analyzed periodically for detrimental surface changes. That way surface problems can be detected before the injuries occur. The information required to have a basic knowledge of the foot-surface relationship includes content materials and ratios, base depths, force absorption, and surface traction.
The Greyhound racing gait is a double-suspension rotary gallop. In this gait the lead front led contacts the surface where it supports the weight of the body and the forces related to their racing propulsion. The lead leg receives 2.26 time’s the body weight of the Greyhound. For example a 70 pound Greyhound will impact the surface with 158 pounds of force. Once the paw touches the track the racing surface must allow for the paw to grip the track. The proper coefficient of friction needed for a racing surface to provide grip is 4.047.
This coefficient value can be used to determine if the track is hard or soft. Anything less than 4.047 will create a slippery interaction. Anything greater than 4.047 creates a hard track. These values have been determined by using the Greyhound racing kinematic information. More information needs to be accumulated before these values can be applied to track evaluation. There could be an acceptable range for the coefficient once further research is performed.
The components of the racing surface in the United States are sand, silt, clay & water (Figure 1). The particles are defined by size: Clay (< 0.002 mm); Silt (0.002 – 0.05 mm); and Sand (0.05 – 2.0 mm). The ratio of these components will determine how that track absorbs the paw. The proper ratio will provide a safe racing surface (a). A wet track or one with too much water (b) will not provide proper traction and impact absorption. A dry track that is composed of too much sand will produce a loose track (c). A dry track that is low on sand content will produce a hard track. Samples are taken from the track to assess the content ratio. These samples can be usually sent to any local academic institution that can run a soil analysis. The analysis will provide a content ratio of the surface components.
Surface Content Analysis
Samples are taken from the track to assess the content ratio. These samples can be usually sent to any local academic institution that can run a soil analysis. The analysis will provide a breakdown of the component percentages as seen in Figure 2. It will also provide a water percentage. The samples should be taken from at least 8 places around the track. They should be taken from the in front of the starting box, from the mid-track of the front stretch, from the rail entering the first turn, from the mid-track entering the first turn, from the rail at the middle of the first turn, from the mid-track of the middle of the first turn, from the back stretch, from the rail of the second turn just below the 3/8’s box, and from the middle of the second turn. In the front stretch, in the rail of the middle of the first turn, in the mid-track of the first turn, in the back stretch and in the second turn the samples should be taken from two depths. One sample should be taken of the top 3 inches and another one of the lower 3 inches. Over time the surface components will shift as a result of weather conditions. The smaller particles will gravitate to the lower part of the base. In the turns the larger particles will slide down the bank towards the rail. Getting samples from two depths determines composition ratio for the depth of the surface. A “Sandy Loam” or “Loamy Sand” type of make up is the optimum content make up for the Greyhound racing surface.
The racing surface is divided into two theoretical layers (Figure 3). The absorptive layer is the surface depth that the paw goes through until it grips the track. The traction layer is the level where the paw grasps the track. These layers are controlled by the content make-up and track maintenance.
The layers of absorption and traction should be even for the length and width of the track (Figure 4). The depth of the absorptive is called the base depth. This depth should be the same in the straightaways and the turns. An even depth is important for safe controlled running. It gives the Greyhound good footing and provides for safe and consistent racing.
Track Layer Analysis
A base map can be used to evaluate the layers of the surface. The base can be measured by inserting a ruler into the surface (Figure 5). It is important to insert it with the same amount of force for each measurement or you can get an incorrect reading. It is also a good idea to do this after the track has been packed down. A good time is after the last race of the card. A base map is created by taking base measurements at important locations around the track. Measurements are taken at three sites for the width of the track. This is because Greyhounds run in basically three paths around the track. There are rail runners, mid-track runners and wide runners. Measuring the depth of these racing paths determines if there is any variation in the base of the three paths. Therefore there are three measurements for each track location.
There are nineteen locations around the track that should be measured (Figure 6). One location is at the starting box, three locations along the front stretch (FS2 – FS4), seven locations around the first turn (FT6 – FT12), three locations on the back stretch (BS13 – BS15), and four locations around the last turn (LT16 – LT19). The reason for so many locations around the first turn is that many different forces occur at this location. At the beginning of the race the Greyhounds enter the first turn at the greatest speed during their race. This creates a lot of outward push on the racing surface. Later at the end of the race this is where the Greyhounds slow up to stop at the end of the race. They dig in and push the surface forward. Another reason is that usually the first turn is banked. Over a period of time the surface content will be altered because of weather and track maintenance. The measurements should be consistent for the length and width of the track (Figure 7).
Banking of the First Turn
The banking should be evaluated at the first turn. The bank should be measured at the mid-turn location. It should be evaluated using the base measurements not the surface top. Insert a ruler into the surface at the rail path. Insert a second ruler in the midtrack path. Measure the deepest of the two measurements. Run a string from that measurement to that same measurment on the other ruler. Use a level to determine the horizontal line. The degree of banking is measured between the horizontal line and the line of the string. This is repeated by measuring the bank from the midtrack path to the wide path. The bank of the turn should measured in two parts because it is common for a crown to occur in the middle of the track at the first turn. Measuring the base depth instead of the surface will expose this problem.
Altered Track Conditions
Weather and track design can cause changes in the racing surface content ratios over time (Figure 8). The particles will shift because of gravity or they are redistributed because of paw-surface interaction. They can also be altered because of raking or track work-up. Weather, track maintenance, and normal wear & tear will also affect the base depths. These changes create an uneven racing surface.
A base depth map will show the track’s discrepancies. The example shown in figure 10 shows base depths that very from 0.2 inches to 1.4 inches around the track. The track is especially deep at the first turn 1.4 inches at the rail locations of FT8, FT 11 and FT12. FT8 is at a location where the Greyhounds are acting upon the surface to make their turn. FT11 and FT12 are just after the brake area. The racing surface in these areas are deep or soft and provide less traction than the harder areas. This would predispose the Greyhounds to uncontrolled running which is one of the causes of racing injuries. This example also demonstrates that there is a difference in the running paths. Coming out of the first turn, the greyhounds running on the midtrack or wide path will have a much harder surface than the greyhounds running on the rail path.
Surface Analysis and Maintenance
It is important to know the base depth of the track because it affects how the track will be managed. If the track has an uneven base the normal maintenance will be inappropriate (Figure 11). If the normal maintenance is performed without the base information the problems are not repaired. The cut may not be deep enough to level the base of the track.
Correcting the Problem
The track surface evaluation will determine how to manage the racing surface. If the surface material content has changed this can be determined by a surface content analysis. It is possible that the track can be rototilled to remix the surface content or mix in needed material. A base map will determine if the base of the track is uneven. If the base is uneven the track should be cut according to the depth determined by the base map and then repacked and cut as seen in Figure 12.
It should be our goal to provide a safe running surface for the Greyhounds. An even and consistent racing surface will minimize racing-related injuries and optimize the ability of these athletes. Racetrack maintenance is the most important factor in maintaining the proper surface. The proper management program requires a procedure to determine the track status. Once the track status is defined, the proper corrections can be made. Research is currently being performed to define an impact model for the racing Greyhound. Once this model is finished it can be used to monitor the racing surface. It can be set upon the surface to measure how the surface receives the impact forces. If the surface is too soft or too hard the instrument will indicate those locations to the track manager. This information can then be used to develp the proper track mangement program. It will also allow test to be perfromed in the laboratory to determine which surface materials should be used to produce the optimal racing surface. Until this model is available, the evaluation procedures outlined in this article should provide a viable way the racetrack managers and the regulatory personnel to assess the racing surface.
- Bloomberg, M. S. and W. W. Dugger, Greyhound Racing Injuries: Racetrack Injury Survey. Canine Sports Medicine and Surgery, pp 412-415, Philadelphia WB Saunders Company, 1998
- Gillette, R. L. Track Surface Influences on the Racing Greyhound. Greyhound Review, April, 1992.
- Gillette, R. L. and C. J. Zebas. A Kinematic and Kinetic Analysis of the Greyhound Racing Pattern. Technical report presented to the Kansas Racing Commission August 8, 1991.
- Sports Injuries Online, www.sports-injuries.com Dr. Willem Meeuwisse and Terry Kane, 2001
- Zebas, C. J., Gillette, R. L., Hailey, R. L., Schoeberl, T., Kratzer, G., & Joseph, Y (1991). Kinematic descriptors of the running gait in the greyhound athlete. In R. N. Marshall, G. A. Wood, B. C. Elliott, T. R. Ackland, & P. J. McNair (Eds.), XIIIth International Conference on Biomechanics (pp 469-470). Perth, Australia: University of Western Australia.
- Zebas, C. J., R. L. Gillette, R. L. Hailey, Y. Joseph, & T. Schoeberl (1991). Selected kinematic differences in the running gait of the greyhound athlete during the beginning and end of the race. In C. L. Tant, P. E. Patterson, & S. L. York (Eds.), Biomechanics in Sport IX (pp 81-84). Ames, IA: Iowa State University.