New national research centre to reduce sport injury risk

10 Jun 2013 13:27:54.540

PA 186/13

A new £3m research centre aimed at reducing the impact of sports injuries suffered by elite and recreational level sportsmen and women is being established in Nottingham.

Led by Nottingham University Hospitals Trust and The University of Nottingham, the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis will look at why some sport and exercise injuries develop into debilitating osteoarthritis in later life. The hope is to find better treatments and screening techniques to predict an individual’s risk of developing osteoarthritis after a sports injury.

Professor Mark Batt, the centre director and consultant in sport and exercise medicine said: “Regular exercise is vital to keep your joints healthy and the long-term benefits of exercise far outweigh the risk of injury. This new multi-million pound centre aims to keep people of all sporting abilities active and injury-free by developing definitive, evidence-based advice and information to minimise the consequence of injury and recommend effective treatments to reduce long-term damage.

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This is the first time in Europe that specialists in sports medicine and osteoarthritis have combined their expertise to understand why some sports injuries will go on to develop into osteoarthritis and how to prevent or slow down degeneration in joints. This team of experts also aims to identify and train researchers specialising in the field of sport and osteoarthritis research.

An injury to the joint is one of the main risk factors for osteoarthritis, along with ageing and obesity. A key part of the centre’s early work will be with professional footballers at the beginning and the end of their careers.

Researchers will investigate:

•    Why some ex-professional football players who have had a joint injury and gone on to develop osteoarthritis, while others haven’t. Up to 15,000 retired players will participate.
•    The association between obesity, physical activity and the risk of osteoarthritis in the general public and rugby league players.
•    The protective effect of physical activity in osteoarthritis of the knee in obese people.
•    Why some people with ankle injures recover, while others do badly. Up to 200 local people with ankle sprains treated at Queen’s Medical Centre will be recruited.
•    Why some retired athletes develop osteoarthritis and others don’t, and what are the mechanisms of injury that lead to osteoarthritis.

There are two types of joint injury connected with sport and exercise - traumatic sports injuries associated with contact or collision sports such as rugby or football or overuse injuries, such as stress fractures associated with non-contact sports such as running or rowing.

Knee injuries are common and are estimated to account for between 15-50 per cent of all sports injuries. Females have been found to have a higher risk of knee injury when participating in some sports. One study has found that they are most common when participating in football and skiing.

Professor Alan Silman, Medical Director of Arthritis Research UK, which is funding the centre over five years, said: “The health benefits of being active cannot be underestimated but as we work hard to encourage people to adopt a more active lifestyle we need to ensure they’re doing everything they can to prevent future problems. We think it’s very important that research in this area involves the general population as well as professional sports players, as osteoarthritis can affect anyone.”

The centre is a consortium of seven universities led by Nottingham University Hospitals and Nottingham and Oxford Universities. They will be working in collaboration with the universities of Southampton, Bath, Loughborough, Leeds and University College London.

The Arthritis Research UK Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis has the backing of leading sports organisations including the International Olympic Committee, Rugby Football Union, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, UK Athletics, the FA and the Professional Footballers’ Association.

For more information about looking after your joints when exercising visit If you are interested in taking part in the research contact centre administrators: or

Story credits

More information is available from Jane Tadman, Arthritis Research UK, on +44 (0) 246 541107,; or Steve Thorne, Communications Manager, Nottingham University Hospitals, 0115 9249924 ext 61975,
Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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