Osteoarthritis in Athletes

Is Osteoarthritis ( OA) common in Athletes?
OA is a degenerative disease that results from mechanical stress and biochemical cellular changes
that ultimately cause pain and impaired joint function. Athletes mainly suffer from medial knee pain
which worsens with high impact activities. There is always post exercise stiffness.

How is exercise, ageing and osteoarthritis associated?
OA is associated with ageing BUT not caused by ageing. For the ageing and former athlete, OA
may be the result of active adolescence and any previous ligament or meniscal injury. Factors
associated with the development of OA are obesity, biomechanical dysfunction, congenital
anomalies, gender, bone density, previous injury. In a person who has biomechanical abnormalities
combined with imbalances of the muscles, tightness of the muscles there is repetitive trauma to the
joint surfaces which increases the propensity to arthritis. Exercise is promoted in such patients as a
treatment for OA. In such patients exercise indirectly helps them to lose weight, maintain strength
and flexibility of the muscles, improved biomechanics. If exercise cause discomfort/pain they must
do non- weight -bearing exercise such as swimming, cycling.

What is the treatment of Osteoarthritis?
The treatment protocol in athletes with OA is :

  • Stretching
  • Lower limb and core strengthening
  • Reduce high impact activities
  • Customised shock absorbing Orthotics/ insoles
  • Short term use of NSAID’s
  • Arthroplasty, Unicompartmental knee replacement

What is the role of Regenerative therapy (PRP) in Osteoarthritis (OA) in athletes?
For an athlete sports participation, increased mobility and pain free range of movement is vital.
Younger athletes may not want to or would prefer to defer surgery that involves prolonged
rehabilitation. Steroid injections have a short duration, require repeat administration and come with
potential complications of local and systemic side-effects.
PRP ( platelet rich plasma) is regenerative therapy which promotes healing and self-repair. It helps
in reducing pain and increasing activity in athletes. Patients with mild to moderate symptomatic OA
benefit greatly from regenerative therapy.


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