Does long-distance running cause osteoarthritis?

J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2006 Jun;106(6):342-5.


There is a dose-response relationship between physical activity and the reduced risk of some diseases (eg, cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus). At a certain "dose," however, the reduced risk of some diseases may be offset by an increased risk of injury and osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can be caused by trauma to, or overuse of, the joints. Sports injuries often occur as a result of dysfunctions in balance or the musculoskeletal system operating in nonneutral mechanics. It is unclear if long-distance running causes the knee and hip joints to deteriorate. The results of animal studies reveal a pattern of increased incidence of arthritis in these joints when there is a history of injury or use in atypical environments (eg, laboratory settings). Human studies show an increase in radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis in endurance sports athletes, but no related increase in symptoms reported. Although there are not currently enough data to give clear recommendations to long-distance runners, it appears that long-distance running does not increase the risk of osteoarthritis of the knees and hips for healthy people who have no other counterindications for this kind of physical activity. Long-distance running might even have a protective effect against joint degeneration. The authors recommend further study.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Cartilage, Articular / physiology
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Joints / injuries*
  • Osteoarthritis / etiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Running*
  • Time Factors