Protecting Olympic athletes from osteoarthritis

03 Jun 2014 16:17:35.557

A new study from the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis, could help to prevent top athletes from developing osteoarthritis in later life.

The new study of British Olympic athletes aims to determine the prevalence of past injury, current joint pain and osteoarthritis (OA) in British Olympic athletes.

A questionnaire will be used to assess a series of risk factors associated with joint pain and OA in our elite athletes. The study is being supported by the British Olympic Association Athletes’ Commission.

The Arthritis Research UK Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis is led by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and is a consortium of seven Universities, including The University of Nottingham, Oxford, Southampton, Bath, Loughborough, Leeds and University College London. The centre is funded by medical research charity Arthritis Research UK with matched funding from the above institutions.

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Guideline development

The study has the potential to contribute to guideline development for the treatment and prevention of osteoarthritis in later life for high performance athletes. It will also add evidence-based advice for participation in sport and exercise, to help people reduce their risk of injury and possible development of OA.

Dale Cooper, a PhD student from The University of Nottingham, said: “This study will help our understanding of which injuries lead to osteoarthritis, and if the mechanisms of injury are similar between retired and current athletes. Additionally the findings may contribute to understanding what level and frequency of physical activity is safe for your joints and whether this varies between the type of exercise, sport, or the individual.”

Reducing the risk

Centre Director, Professor Mark Batt of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Generally, sport and exercise are very good for us, and it is vital that we continue to promote this important public health message. At the same time there are some inherent associated risks of sport such as the occurrence of injury. We want to understand what effect injury has on the development of joint pain and OA in a number of sport and exercise settings, what the risk factors are, but equally what if any protecting factors there may be in being active and exercising regularly.”

Study co-supervisor Dr Debbie Palmer-Green, from The University of Nottingham, has an added interest in the study as she is a retired GB Olympian herself. She said: “This study provides a unique opportunity and insight in to the very top echelons of our Olympic sports performers.”

For more details on this and other studies please visit

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