Functional adaptation of knee cartilage in asymptomatic female novice runners compared to sedentary controls. A longitudinal analysis using delayed Gadolinium Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Cartilage (dGEMRIC)

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2010 Dec;18(12):1564-9. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2010.10.007. Epub 2010 Oct 13.


Objective: To longitudinally estimate the change in glycosaminoglycan content of knee cartilage in asymptomatic untrained female novice runners participating in a Start To Run program (STR) compared to sedentary controls.

Method: Nine females enrolling in a 10-week STR and 10 sedentary controls participated voluntarily. Prior to and after the 10-week period, both groups were subjected to dGEMRIC imaging. dGEMRIC indices of knee cartilage were determined at baseline and for the change after the 10-week period in both groups. Based on a self-reported weekly log, physical activity change during the study was depicted as decreased, unchanged or increased. The Mann-Whitney U and Kruskal-Wallis tests were applied to test the hypotheses that dGEMRIC changes occurred between groups and according to physical activity changes respectively.

Results: No significant differences were established between groups for dGEMRIC indices at baseline (P=0.541). A significant positive change of the median dGEMRIC index in the runners group was demonstrated when compared to the controls [+11.66ms (95% CI: -25.29, 44.43) vs -9.56ms (95% CI: -29.55, 5.83), P=0.006]. The change in dGEMRIC index differed significantly according to physical activity change (P=0.014), showing an increase in dGEMRIC index with increasing physical activity.

Conclusion: Since cartilage appears to positively respond to moderate running when compared to a sedentary lifestyle, this running scheme might be considered a valuable tool in osteoarthritis prevention strategies. Caution is warranted when applying these results to a wider population and to longer training periods.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Cartilage, Articular / metabolism
  • Cartilage, Articular / physiology*
  • Contrast Media
  • Female
  • Gadolinium DTPA
  • Glycosaminoglycans / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Knee Joint / metabolism
  • Knee Joint / physiology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / prevention & control
  • Running / physiology*
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Young Adult


  • Contrast Media
  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Gadolinium DTPA