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Hand injury not associated with pain or osteoarthritis in former cricket and rugby players

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A previous hand injury is not associated with hand pain or osteoarthritis in former professional cricket and rugby players, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Centre for Sport, Exercise & Osteoarthritis Research Versus Arthritis looked at the prevalence of hand and wrist osteoarthritis, and hand pain, in more than 260 former elite cricket and rugby players.

Former cricket players were significantly more likely to experience hand pain than rugby players, with almost one in five retired cricketers reporting hand pain on most days of the last month.

However, there was no significant difference in the rates of hand or wrist osteoarthritis, or previous severe hand injury, between cricket and rugby players.

And the researchers were surprised to find that injury was not associated with hand pain or osteoarthritis in the hand or wrist in either sport. This suggests that risk factors aside from injury may be more prominent in the development of hand osteoarthritis.

“Hand osteoarthritis has had limited attention in former athlete research, so we are really pleased to have been able to undertake this inter-sport comparison, and identify similarities and differences between rugby and cricket players,” commented lead author Dr Betsy Jones. “This study has involved a substantial team and the support of the England Cricket Board and Rugby Football Union, and I am delighted that once again they have worked with us to continue identifying longer term musculoskeletal health benefits and risks in sporting populations.”

The study follows on from work undertaken by Dr Jones and Dr Madi Davies during their DPhil research at the University of Oxford, which was funded by the Centre for Sport, Exercise & Osteoarthritis Research Versus Arthritis (formerly the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Sport, Exercise & Osteoarthritis).

Professor Mark Batt, director of research centre, added: “Hand osteoarthritis has been of increasing interest, and to not see the association between injury and osteoarthritis at the hand, that we do see in these populations at the knee and hip, is very interesting. I am thrilled to see our former Centre researchers remaining active in this area, and contributing to the Centre’s ongoing aim to better understand the relationship between sport, injury and physical activity in recreational and elite athletes, and everyday exercisers.”