Do Certain Sports Increase the Risk of Knee OA?

Osteoarthritis, or OA for short, is among the most common types of arthritis. More than 27 million people in the U.S. have OA according to the Arthritis Foundation. The knee is one of the most commonly affected areas.

Commonly referred to as “wear-and-tear arthritis”, OA is a condition in which the natural cushioning between joints (translation: cartilage) deteriorates. When this occurs, these joint bones rub against one another much more closely with less of the “shock-absorbing” benefits of cartilage. Pain, swelling, stiffness, decreased ability to move and, sometimes, the formation of bone spurs are the common products of OA.

There are various factors that cause knee OA – age and genetics being two of the top ones.

The National Athletic Trainers Association conducted a study to see if participation in certain sports increased the risk of sustaining knee OA.

They found this to definitely be the case in four sports: soccer (elite and non-elite), elite-level long-distance running, weight lifting and wrestling.

From the NATA’s systematic review:

“The purpose of our study was to conduct a systematic review of the literature to investigate the quantitative association between participation in specific sports and the chance of developing knee OA. A secondary purpose was to attempt to distinguish the effects of joint injury from those of sport participation with respect to the chance of developing knee OA.”

Rather than discourage participation in these four sports, the NATA is encouraging currant participants to be targeted for risk-reduction strategies.