Practitioner Safety and the Application of Learning Theory related to injury risk in Equine Physiotherapy: a Worldwide Survey

Kirsten Ruffoni, Bryony E. Lancaster, Gillian Tabor

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In the equine physiotherapy profession, similarly to the equine veterinary profession, there may be a high risk of occupational injury and preventive strategies, such as the application of learning theory (LT), may mitigate workplace injury frequency. The purpose of this study was to identify the frequency of occupational injury among equine physiotherapists and investigate the relationship between injury rate and knowledge of LT. An online survey was distributed, receiving 64 valid responses: of these, 51 were qualified veterinary physiotherapists working with equines and their data were taken forward for analysis. The mean injury frequency was 0.59±1 per year, with 36 respondents reporting at least one injury during their career. There was a moderate negative correlation (r=-0.34, 95%CI[-0.56,-0.07], p<0.05) between career length (in years) and injury frequency. The most common site of injury for practitioners was the lower limb (n=22) and the most common type of injury was bruising (n=32). Of the respondents who claimed the work activity they were performing significantly contributed to their most severe injury, six were carrying out equine hindlimb treatment at the time of injury. Knowledge of LT was poor: only 21 of respondents scored 3/9 or higher when tested on practical application of LT and 24 achieved a grade of 6/10 or higher on theoretical knowledge, with one respondent achieving 0/10. There was a moderate positive correlation (r=0.37, 95%CI[0.10,0.58], p<0.01) between veterinary physiotherapists’ theoretical knowledge scores and their self-evaluation of LT terminology scores. There was no significant correlation between scenario-based and theoretical LT scores and injury frequency. However, there was a weak negative correlation (r=-0.31, 95%CI[-0.54,-0.04], p<0.05) between self-evaluation of LT terminology scores and injury frequency. Due to the small number of responses, results from the present study are not representative of the target population. However, results nonetheless highlight a trend of high injury rates and low levels of understanding of equine learning. This is comparable to other equine-related professions, indicating the urgent need of research into better prevention and safety-enhancing strategies, which could reduce the rates of occupational injury and safeguard the welfare of both practitioners and equines.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Equine Rehabilitation
Early online date30 Dec 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Dec 2023


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