1. In this study, one in four retired Olympians reported physician-diagnosed osteoarthritis (OA), with injury being associated with an increased risk of OA and pain at the knee, hip, and ankle.

2. After adjusting for risk factors, Olympians were more likely to have knee and hip OA after injury compared to the general population.

Evidence Rating Level: 3 (Average)

Joint injury may be a risk factor for future development of OA, especially for elite sport participants. To date, few studies have compared the magnitude of OA in different body sites in elite athletes (such as Olympians) and the general population. As a result, the objective of the present cross-sectional study was to compare the prevalence of lower limb physician-diagnosed OA and pain in retired Olympians, as well as determine contributing factors.

The present study included self-reported data from an online survey administered to Olympians (through Olympic association platforms) and the general population (in three different phases). 3357 retired Olympians (median age= 44.7 years) and 1735 (median age= 40.5 years) individuals from the general population completed the survey between April 2018 and June 2019. Retired Olympians had to be 16 years or older and competed in at least one summer/and or winter Olympic game. General population controls included those older than 16 years who did not compete in the Olympics. For statistical analyses, independent t-tests, Mann-Whitney U tests, Chi-square testing and logistic regression were used.

Results demonstrated that one in four retired Olympians reported physician-diagnosed osteoarthritis (OA), and injury was associated with an increased risk of OA and pain at the knee, hip and ankle. Furthermore, after adjusting for risk factors, Olympians were more likely to have knee and hip OA after injury, compared to the general population. Despite these results, the study was limited by only representing 4% of the total retired Olympian population. Nonetheless, the present results may help inform prevention strategies to reduce the risk of lower limb OA in Olympians after retirement from their sport.

Click to read the study in British Journal of Sports Medicine 

Image: PD

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