Knee and ankle osteoarthritis in former elite soccer players: a systematic review of the recent literature

J Sci Med Sport. 2012 Nov;15(6):480-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2012.02.008. Epub 2012 May 8.


Objectives: To investigate the prevalence of knee and/or ankle osteoarthritis in former elite soccer player.

Design: Systematic review.

Methods: Medline, Embase and SPORTDiscus (2000 to January 2012) were used. To be included, studies were required to be a primary study, written in English, Dutch, French or German, former elite soccer players had to be the study population, and presenting knee or ankle OA had to be the outcome measure.

Results: The search strategy resulted in four studies. Two studies, evaluated as having a high methodological quality, found a prevalence rate of knee OA between 60 and 80%. Both studies used radiographic examination as their measurement instrument to diagnose OA; the presence of ankle OA was not determined. The other two studies, evaluated as having a moderate methodological quality, found a prevalence rate of knee OA between 40 and 46% and a prevalence rate of ankle OA between 12 and 17%. These studies used a questionnaire as their measurement instrument wherein players were asked if they had ever been diagnosed with OA by a medical specialist.

Conclusions: The prevalence of knee and ankle OA in former elite soccer players can be considered high compared to the general population and to other occupations. To identify players at risk for OA, a health surveillance program should be implemented in elite soccer as a preventive measure. Further research should be conducted to determine if the risk of developing OA varies among different subgroups of elite soccer players and what the consequences of this high OA prevalence are.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Ankle / diagnostic imaging*
  • Athletes / statistics & numerical data
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnosis
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteoarthritis / epidemiology*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / diagnosis
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Radiography
  • Soccer / injuries*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires