Long term joint consequences of sporting activity: preventing and managing osteoarthritis in the athlete

30 January 2014

Sports participation is associated with an increased risk of future osteoarthritis (OA), much of which results from joint injury. No strong evidence exists that moderate sporting activity in the presence of normal joints predisposes to OA. Whether high-level participation in sport, particularly impact-type sports, is truly associated with OA is unclear owing to difficulties in differentiating the confounding effect of joint injury. Attention to strategies that prevent joint injury in athletes is paramount. Evidence does support the use of targeted neuromuscular exercise programmes, ankle taping and/or bracing and equipment or rule changes to prevent joint injuries in athletes. Optimal injury management, including rehabilitation and surgery if appropriate, is needed to facilitate healing and address biomechanical and neuromuscular impairments to reduce the risk of re-injury and minimize the onset and extent of joint symptoms. Management of OA in athletes requires attention to load-reducing strategies, activity modification, muscle strengthening and weight control.