Retired Professional Footballers more prone to Osteoarthritis and Knee Pain - Rheumatology Consultant London | Rheumatologist London | Dr Stephanie Barrett



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A new study funded by the charity Arthritis Research UK has looked knee pain in retired professional footballers. It finds that they are much more likely to suffer from knee problems and osteoarthritis earlier in life. The research was led by The University of Nottingham with support from FIFA’s Medical and Research Centre (FMARC), the Professional Footballs Association (PFA) and SPIRE Healthcare.

Higher Risk of Knee Replacement

The study shows that male ex-football players are up to three times more likely to suffer from knee pain and knee osteoarthritis. They are also at higher risk of requirement knee replacement. The study took into account more than 1200 ex-footballers with an average age of 59. Their data was compared to that of over 4000 general population males from the East Midlands area.

Ex-footballers reported a much higher level of knee pain, structural osteoarthritis of the knee on X-Ray or the need for a knee replacement across all age groups in the study. It was particularly noticeable in the younger age groups up to 54 years. The study also looks specifically at whether previous knee injury had an impact on the development of osteoarthritis and knee pain in ex-footballers too.

“Repetitive Microtrauma” of Professional Football

The conclusion of the study shows no particular correlation between previous knee injury and osteoarthritis development. It concluded that it was the “repetitive microtrauma” of competitive football that led to the increased risk of knee arthritis.

Knee osteoarthritis is not always recognised as a specific condition for professional footballers. This study goes towards proving it is. It also means many national bodies may recognise knee osteoarthritis as an industrial disease for the professional football industry.

Osteoarthritis affects over eight million people in the UK and needs to be treated on an individual basis. A multidisciplinary approach is usually best for treating the condition.