Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common joint disease in the world and the single largest cause of disability for those over 18 years. It affects more than twice as many people as does cardiac disease, and increases in incidence and prevalence with age. Animal and human studies have shown no evidence of increased risk of hip or knee OA with moderate exercise and in the absence of traumatic injury, sporting activity has a protective effect. One age-matched case control study found recreational runners who ran 12–14 miles per week for up to 40 years had no increase in radiological or symptomatic hip or knee OA. However, higher rates of hip OA occur in contact sports than in age-matched controls, with the highest rate in professional players. Soccer players with torn anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) are more likely to develop knee OA than those with intact ACL. Early ACL repair reduces the risk of knee OA, but does not prevent it. Established injury prevention programmes have been refined to prevent injuries such as ACL rupture.
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Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.