Vet Stories

Apr 30, 2024
Arthrex Supports National Collegiate Polo Champions With ACP Donations

It may be known as the “sport of kings” that is played among equestrians in high society, but the demanding sport of polo also has a rich history at colleges and universities, where the horses are donated and student athletes help fundraise to support the programs.

Cornell University in Ithaca, New York has one of the oldest and most storied intercollegiate polo teams in the country. The men’s team has won 12 national titles since the early 1900s – including in 2024 – and even though the women’s team wasn’t formally recognized until 1972, they hold 15 national titles; most recently in 2015 and 2016.

“I don’t believe any other collegiate program in the country has as many national championships as we do,” said Anthony (Tony) Condo, the Peter B. Orthwein ’68 Head Coach of Polo at Cornell. “It’s a labor of love that requires a lot of dedication and skill from the riders and our student vets.”

Unlike outdoor polo, which is played on a 10-acre field, arena polo is played in an enclosed space that’s 300 feet by 150 feet. With three riders on each team, trying to hit a ball with long mallets to score goals, it requires the horses to do even more stopping, starting and making tight turns than outdoor polo.

“Polo horses are hardcore competitive athletes who have to be resilient and tough to thrive in this game,” Tony said. “Polo is a full contact sport for both horses and riders.”

And even though as many as 16 horses are rotated throughout a single polo match to allow them adequate time to rest and recover, injuries are inevitable.

“These horses are true athletes and we are entrusted with keeping them sound and athletic into their upper teens,” said Aimee Colbath, VMD, MS, DACVS-LA, Assistant Professor of Large Animal Surgery at Cornell. “Tendon and ligament injuries are common among all horses, but particularly in these equine athletes. Most of them who are donated to us are already 10 years of age or older, so they may have had previous injuries, as well.”

That’s where products like ACP Max™ (Autologous Conditioned Plasma) can make all the difference for these horses. ACP Max is a system that creates platelet-rich plasma (PRP) from the horse’s own blood that is then injected back into the injured area to help speed healing. Every year, Arthrex donates up to two dozen ACP Max kits to Cornell.

“We don’t want to put a band aid on an injury and ACP Max is very helpful,” Aimee said. “It’s a stall-side treatment. That means that we can diagnose an injury and inject it later that day, as opposed to treatments like stem cell therapy that requires three weeks to prepare.”

Unlike some other treatments that require multiple injections, ACP Max typically only needs to be injected once, minimizing the risk of complications related to performing an injection.

And that, Tony says, is invaluable for both the polo horses and their riders.

“Intercollegiate polo is a really special opportunity. We are a tight-knit community and we are committed to making the most of the time we have together and taking the best care of our horses.”

Photos courtesy of Cornell University.