Objectives (1) To determine the prevalence of spine and upper limb osteoarthritis (OA) and pain in retired Olympians; (2) identify risk factors associated with their occurrence and (3) compare with a sample of the general population.
Methods 3357 retired Olympians (44.7 years) and 1735 general population controls (40.5 years) completed a cross-sectional survey. The survey captured demographics, general health, self-reported physician-diagnosed OA, current joint/region pain and significant injury (lasting ≥1 month). Adjusted ORs (aORs) compared retired Olympians and the general population.
Results Overall, 40% of retired Olympians reported experiencing current joint pain. The prevalence of lumbar spine pain was 19.3% and shoulder pain 7.4%, with lumbar spine and shoulder OA 5.7% and 2.4%, respectively. Injury was associated with increased odds (aOR, 95% CI) of OA and pain at the lumbar spine (OA=5.59, 4.01 to 7.78; pain=4.90, 3.97 to 6.05), cervical spine (OA=17.83, 1.02 to 31.14; pain=9.41, 6.32 to 14.01) and shoulder (OA=4.91, 3.03 to 7.96; pain=6.04, 4.55 to 8.03) in retired Olympians. While the odds of OA did not differ between Olympians and the general population, the odds of lumbar spine pain (1.44, 1.20 to 1.73), the odds of shoulder OA after prior shoulder injury (2.64, 1.01 to 6.90) and the odds of cervical spine OA in female Olympians (2.02, 1.06 to 3.87) were all higher for Olympians compared with controls.
Conclusions One in five retired Olympians reported experiencing current lumbar spine pain. Injury was associated with lumbar spine, cervical spine and shoulder OA and pain for Olympians. Although overall OA odds did not differ, after adjustment for recognised risk factors, Olympians were more likely to have lumbar spine pain and shoulder OA after shoulder injury, than the general population.
- Lumbar spine
- Cervical spine
Data availability statement
All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information.
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Contributors All authors contributed to the study conception and design, data collection and interpretation. DP analysed the data and drafted the paper. All authors provided revisions and contributed to the final manuscript. DP is the guarantor.
Funding The World Olympians Association funded the Retired Olympian Musculoskeletal Health Study (ROMHS) with a research grant from the IOC.
Competing interests TS works as Scientific Manager in the Medical and Scientific Department of the IOC. LE is Head of Scientific Activities in the Medical and Scientific Department of the IOC. LE is Editor and KS coeditor of the British Journal of Sports Medicine–Injury Prevention and Health Protection. RB is Director of the Medical and Scientific Department of the IOC.
Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research. Refer to the Methods section for further details.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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