With financial support from Arthritis Research UK, researchers from the University of Nottingham are embarking on a study that aims to examine the link between professional football and osteoarthritis (OA). The first study of this kind will take place over five years and its findings could provide a valuable insight into injury prevention for all sports participants, be they amateurs or professionals.
Among the sponsors of the study are FIFA and Xpro and the initiative also has the support of the FA and the PFA. Dr Gwen Fernandes, who will oversee the project, noted that professional football players seemed to be particularly prone to developing arthritis as a result of the sport´s intensity and the injuries they suffer during their careers. Knee joints are especially vulnerable and the study results will hopefully shed light on specific risk factors contributing to the development of knee OA among football players, Fernandes added.
The first phase will include the selection of at least 18,000 former professional footballers aged over 40. They will be asked to complete a questionnaire, providing information such as the number of matches they played, the duration of their training sessions, the length of their career and the level of play. The participants will also be asked to report if they sustained injuries and if they have been now been diagnosed with OA. In the second phase the researchers will X-ray the knees of 900 subjects, looking for evidence of structural knee damage. The results will then be compared to similar data collected from 500 men selected from the general population.