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Cricketers more likely to develop osteoarthritis

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Elite-level cricketers are more likely than the general public to experience osteoarthritis, according to a study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

Researchers at the University of Oxford asked 113 former elite cricket players to complete a health questionnaire, and compared their results to those of 4,496 participants from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

The study was supported by the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA).

The data revealed that 51.3% of the former cricketers went on to develop osteoarthritis, which is significantly higher than the rest of the population. The exact reason behind this is unclear, although Arthritis Research UK noted that other risk factors may have raised the risk, such as body mass index scores, family history or injury.

Joint replacement was also more common among the former cricketers, with 14.7% and 10.7% respectively undergoing total hip or knee replacement surgery after their playing careers had ended. This, again, is much higher than the rate seen among the general public.

And mental health conditions were more prevalent, with the former cricketers more likely to experience anxiety and depression.

However, a career in cricket was also associated with lower rates of heart disease and a high quality of life.

What’s more, 97% of former cricketers said they would repeat their cricket career all over again if they could, and 98% said the sport had enriched their lives.

Lead researcher Betsy Jones, from the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS), said: “With the importance of physical activity to a healthy lifestyle, it’s important for us to acknowledge the health benefits and understand any negative impacts of sport so that we can inform healthy participation.”

This research contributes to the dialogue on the benefits and risks in sport, and how best to care for the long-term health of elite athletes, Jones added.