Can Arthritis Catch Up With Runners?
WebMD News Archive
Lane points out that signs of osteoporosis were evident in all the women.
Despite staying relatively active, the runners lost bone mass at the same rate
as the non-runners. "Age-related bone loss occurs despite continuous
activities," says Lane.
The authors also cite a four-year Swedish study, in which women ages 50-70
-- some who had hip replacements because of osteoarthritis -- were interviewed
about their sports activities before age 50 as well as overall health status,
smoking habits, occupational history, and work at home. The study showed that
sporting activities and occupational stresses -- knee-bending and lifting --
until the age of 50 appears to be a moderate risk factor in women for
developing severe osteoarthritis of the hip. However, says Lane, these results
must be interpreted cautiously, since women had to report from memory what they
did 50 years ago.
Timothy McAlindon, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the Arthritis
Center at Boston University School of Medicine, tells WebMD, "There have
been case-controlled studies in Europe that -- in contrast to the studies
[cited by Lane et al.] -- do show increased risk [of knee and hip
osteoarthritis] from recreational activities."
The study results cited by Lane and colleagues are "generalizable to
people who are similar to those participating in that [particular] study:
habitual runners who are lean and appear to be in good health," says
McAlindon. "Now, can you generalize that to someone who is over 40,
overweight, and decides to start running? Running could do damage to the knees
of someone who is very obese."
Running is relatively low-impact compared to activities like tennis and
squash, which involve changing direction rapidly -- twisting -- and put more
stress on the knee, says McAlindon. "Soccer and skiing are clearly very bad
for knees," he says. "What you have to do is temper the message.
Running seems to be relatively safe, but other sorts of activities may increase
the risk of osteoarthritis, especially if there's impact involved or there's
the risk of injury to ligaments."
- A high-impact, high-stress running regimen is associated with a greater
risk of joint deterioration, which could lead to osteoarthritis.
- Recreational running, however -- running 2-3 times per week at an 8-minute
mile pace -- does not increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
- Scientists do not know exactly how osteoarthritis develops, but damage to
the surface of the bone can start a process that leads to joint