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Can Arthritis Catch Up With Runners?


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."

Vital Information:

  • 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 degeneration.


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