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Sport and early osteoarthritis: the role of sport in aetiology, progression and treatment of knee osteoarthritis


Sports activities are considered favourable for general health; nevertheless, a possible influence of sports practice on the development of early osteoarthritis (OA) is a cause for concern. A higher incidence of OA in knees and ankles of former high-impact sports players than in those of the normal population has been shown and it is still debatable whether the cause is either to be recognized generically in the higher number of injuries or in a joint overload. The possibility to address knee OA in its early phases may be strictly connected to the modification of specific extrinsic or intrinsic factors, related to the patient in order to save the joint from further disease progression; these include sport practice, equipment and load. Non-surgical therapies such as continuative muscles reinforce and training play a strong role in the care of athletes with early OA, particularly if professional. There is an overall agreement on the need of an early restoring of a proper meniscal, ligament and cartilage integrity in order to protect the knee and resume sports safely, whereas alignment is a point still strongly debatable especially for professional athletes. Remaining questions still to be answered are the risks of different sports in relation to one another, although an actual protective effect of low-impact sports, such as walking, swimming or cycling, has been recognized on the appearance or worsening of OA, the effect of continuing or ceasing to practice a sport on the natural history of early OA, and even following appropriate treatment is still unknown.

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Vannini, F., Spalding, T., Andriolo, L. et al. Sport and early osteoarthritis: the role of sport in aetiology, progression and treatment of knee osteoarthritis. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 24, 1786–1796 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00167-016-4090-5

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  • Sport
  • Early osteoarthritis
  • Knee
  • Degeneration
  • Cartilage