Objective: To establish the relation between handball playing, passive hip range of motion (ROM), and the development of radiological hip osteoarthritis (OA) in former elite handball players. Two related issues are addressed: (a) the relation between long term elite handball playing and the incidence of hip OA; (b) the relations between hip ROM, OA, and pain.
Methods: Data on 20 former elite handball players and 39 control subjects were collected. A questionnaire yielded personal details, loading patterns during physical activity, and previous lower limb joint injury. Bilateral radiographs were analysed to diagnose and classify hip OA. Passive hip ROM was measured bilaterally with a goniometer.
Results: A close relation was found between long term elite handball practice and the incidence of hip OA: 60% of the handball players were diagnosed with OA in at least one of the hip joints compared with 13% of the control subjects. Passive ROM measured in the handball players was significantly lower for hip flexion and medial rotation and higher for abduction, extension, and lateral rotation than the control values. The handball players with OA reported less pain in the hip joints during daily activities than the control subjects with OA.
Conclusion: The risk of developing premature hip OA seems high for retired handball players and significantly greater than for the general population. Pain and discomfort represent two difficult diagnostic challenges to the sports physician, as the repetitive nature of movements that are specific to handball can lead to alterations that are rarely seen in the general population.
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Competing interests: none declared
Ethical approval: x ray examinations were performed systematically according to French law in the case of polytraumatisms.
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