Marathon Running and arthritis

Long-distance runners are often cautioned about the potential wear and tear on their joints. However, a recent study has revealed that running distance, frequency, and speed are not linked to a higher risk of osteoarthritis.

In this blog, we explore the findings of this latest research and look at the factors that do increase the risk of knee arthritis.

What did the latest study find?

The latest research was presented at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) 2023 Annual Meeting.

In the study, investigators collected data from 3,804 runners who took part in either the 2019 or 2021 Chicago Marathon. The participants provided information on their running history, weekly average mileage, and typical running speed. Also, any known osteoarthritis risk factors such as BMI, family arthritis history, and prior hip and knee injuries that affected their ability to run.

On average, the runners were around 44 years old and covered 27.9 miles per week. Most respondents (37.3%) had completed two to five marathons, approximately 21% had finished six to 10 marathons, and 17% were participating in their first marathon.

With an average of 15 years of running experience, 1,892 participants reported previous hip or knee injuries, and 413 had undergone knee or hip surgery. In total, 36.4% mentioned experiencing hip or knee pain in the past year, while 7.3% had been diagnosed with arthritis.

The general belief has been that running might elevate the risk of osteoarthritis due to the increased stress on joints compared to walking or standing. However, the study’s findings revealed no connection between osteoarthritis risk and factors such as weekly mileage, duration of running experience, the number of marathons completed, or running speed.

What factors increase the risk of knee arthritis?

While the study didn’t find any correlation between long-distance running and increased arthritis risk, it did reveal some risk factors. Runners with a history of knee or hip surgery, or past hip or knee injuries, had the highest likelihood of developing arthritis.

Other factors that contribute to the development of osteoarthritis include increasing age, which is the strongest risk factor. Also, being female, as hip osteoarthritis is nearly twice as common in women compared to men. Obesity also plays a role by increasing the load on weight-bearing joints, making knee arthritis over three times more likely and speeding up disease progression.

Both high bone density and low bone density can impact the risk of osteoarthritis. The former increases the likelihood of developing the condition, and the latter raises the chances of rapid progression.

Protecting the knees in long distance runners

Even though marathon running and arthritis are not inextricably linked, safeguarding your knees during long-distance runs remains crucial. Key practices to adopt include proper warm-up routines, selecting appropriate running shoes, and progressively increasing the distance.

If you encounter knee discomfort after running, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation with Mr. Shah Punwar.

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