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Delivering Injury Treatment and Rehabilitation
Getting back in the game following an injury often is the primary focus for human and equine athletes alike. When the Equine Sports Medicine service can return an injured equine athlete to full performance, it is the ultimate reward. The goal of this sports medicine specialty is not only to treat the primary injury but also to provide restoration and rehabilitation for the entire horse.
As the VTH receives calls regarding pre-purchase exams, complicated or multi-limb lameness exams, or the development of injury rehabilitation protocols, it literally sets the wheels in motion for the ESM team of specialists. This mobile service delivers sports medicine expertise to clients’ doorsteps throughout the state of Colorado. From Craig to Carbondale to Cortez, and even occasionally beyond state borders (to New Mexico this July for the National Junior High School Rodeo Finals), ESM offers equine clients state-of-the-art diagnostics and treatment for musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, and medical issues.
On the road, the team’s truck is loaded with equipment for lameness and follow-up exams, digital radiography, digital ultrasound, extracorporeal shockwave therapy, laser therapy, joint injections, therapeutic management of back pain, and for performing regenerative joint therapies (IRAP, PRP, and bone marrow-derived stem cells.) An additional component of ESM is located at the CSU Orthopaedic Research Center, where equine patients receive aquatic therapy by exercising on the underwater treadmill.

A Complete Relationship

The ESM service opened for business in 2011 to provide equine athletes outside the hospital the same world-class care that they receive in-house, and is the result of a collaborative effort between the CSU ORC faculty and the VTH. The ESM’s objective is to support the equine athlete throughout its life by offering the latest therapeutic, diagnostic, and rehabilitative techniques from birth through adolescence, competition, injury, rehabilitation, and retirement.
Maintaining this relationship and rehabilitating a patient translates into developing global treatment for the whole horse. To formulate such a plan, the ESM team considers other factors, such as compensatory soreness and additional areas of weakness. The ESM clinicians also work with the horse’s primary clinician in developing treatment or rehabilitation strategies, and can refer additional treatments for acupuncture and chiropractic to local practitioners. When advanced techniques are needed—such as surgery or advanced imaging—the horse can be referred to the VTH or a facility of the client’s choice.

Pioneers in Equine Sports Medicine

The American College of Veterinary Medicine recently recognized the need to establish a sports medicine specialty designed to focus on keeping the equine athlete healthy. The CSU ESM service is one of the founding programs to be accepted in the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (ACVSMR).
Four faculty members of the ORC are charter members of the ACVSMR, including Dr. C. Wayne McIlwraith, BVSc, PhD, DSc, FRCVS, Diplomate ACVS and ACVSMR; Dr. Chris Kawcak, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVS and ACVSMR; Dr. David Frisbie, DVM, MS, PhD, Diplomate ACVS; and Dr. Kevin Haussler, DVM, DC, PhD. They started the CSU ESM service to provide veterinary residents with the experience necessary to fulfill the requirements for board certification. The ESM staff includes the four ORC faculty members, one technician, and two residents. Dr. Kawcak manages the service, and Dr. Melissa King is the primary clinician. Dr. King has more than 11 years of experience in private practice, and holds a PhD in Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. She is one of only a handful of clinicians in the world to have expertise in equine rehabilitation.
ESM not only provides its clients and patients with the latest techniques, but it also offers an exciting learning opportunity for veterinary students who have the option of working with ESM as a student rotation. Veterinary residents enrolled in this recently developed specialty training program can experience the challenges and rewards of practicing sports medicine in a practical setting, while adhering to the strict guidelines of the newly established American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (970) 556-3931.

Contact Us:
​Colorado State University
Veterinary Teaching Hospital
300 West Drake Road
Fort Collins, Colorado, 80523

(970) 297-5000

(970) 297-1205

24 hours a day, 7 days a week
(970) 297-5000
Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
(970) 556-3931