Moderate lifelong physical activity safe for the knees

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Last Updated: 2001-08-10 8:58:00 EDT (Reuters Health)

WESTPORT, CT (Reuters Health) – Everyday physical activity does not increase the risk of osteoarthritis of the knee later in life, unless a knee injury occurs.

That's the finding of a team of researchers from the UK led by Dr. A. J. Sutton of the University of Leicester. "Our data do not support the suggestion that increased use of the knee joint through moderate sporting and exercise participation wears out the joint and therefore increases the risk of knee osteoarthritis," they write in the August issue of the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

The researchers studied the relation between low and moderate levels of physical activity and knee osteoarthritis using data from the Allied Dunbar National Fitness Survey. Each of the 216 case patients who reported onset of arthritis after age 40, with knee pain, swelling or stiffness, was matched to four control patients. Comprehensive questionnaires and interviews were used to gather information on sports and exercise participation for every year of life from age 14 until the time of the interview.

Dr. Sutton's group reports that the only strong association between physical activity and osteoarthritis of the knee was in subjects with a prior knee injury (p < 0.01). The odds ratio for osteoarthritis of the knee in the setting of a knee injury was 8.0. Absent a knee injury, there was no significant link between normal physical activity and development of knee osteoarthritis.

The team concludes that the potential health benefits of regular physical activity "greatly outweigh" the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

In comments to Reuters Health, Dr. Sutton emphasized the importance of preventive measures when participating in physical activity and sports, such as "warming up sufficiently and using the correct equipment."

Ann Rheum Dis 2001;60:756-764.

-Westport Newsroom 203 319 2700

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