Can sport give you arthritis?

Could sport cause arthritis? Pic:Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Could sport cause arthritis? Pic:Peter Byrne/PA Wire
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Leeds researchers are part of a £2m research project looking at the risk of joint problems in amateur athletes. Catherine Scott reports.

Scientists at the University of Leeds have received extra funding to investigate whether amateur athletes are at a greater risk of developing potentially-disabling joint problems.

Professor Anthony Redmond from the University of Leeds is researching the impact of sport on our joints

Professor Anthony Redmond from the University of Leeds is researching the impact of sport on our joints

For the past five years, the researchers have been examining whether professional sports people and other elite athletes are more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition of the joints, because of the intense wear and tear they are exposed to.

Research at Leeds has particularly looked at the damage that can be done to knees and ankles through state-of-the-art medical imaging and biomechanical studies, primarily on professional athletes.

The new phase of the research is examining more generally the effects of participating in physical activity on the risk and management of osteoarthritis for amateur athletes.

Professor Anthony Redmond, from the University of Leeds, said: “The first stage of the research looked at the impact of sport on the joints of higher level athletes. That has helped us understand not only the long-term risks and benefits of physical activity on various joints, particularly the knees and ankles, but also to understand the mechanisms that can trigger joint problems.

“That picture is now allowing us to devise new treatment options and to widen the application so that the wider public can safely enjoy physical activity and all of the benefits that go with it.”

The researchers at the University of Leeds are part of a national consortium – called the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis – led by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and which also involves Leeds, Nottingham, Oxford, Southampton, Bath and Loughborough universities.

The charity Arthritis Research UK is funding the consortium – so far over £3m has been spent on the first five years and a further £2m has now been awarded for the next stage of the research.

Natalie Carter, Head of Research Liaison & Evaluation at Arthritis Research UK, said: “Over the next five years, we hope this research will also help us to pinpoint links and uncover risk factors for osteoarthritis in the wider population, which could in turn lead to innovative ways to treat or prevent the condition, and improve the quality of life for people living with osteoarthritis.”