Is increased joint loading detrimental to obese patients with knee osteoarthritis? A secondary data analysis from a randomized trial

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2013 Dec;21(12):1865-75. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2013.10.003. Epub 2013 Oct 14.


Objective: To investigate whether increased knee joint loading due to improved ambulatory function and walking speed following weight loss achieved over 16 weeks accelerates symptomatic and structural disease progression over a subsequent 1 year weight maintenance period in an obese population with knee osteoarthritis (OA).

Methods: Data from a prospective study of weight loss in obese patients with knee OA (the CARtilage in obese knee OsteoarThritis (CAROT) study) were used to determine changes in knee joint compressive loadings (model estimated) during walking after a successful 16 week weight loss intervention. The participants were divided into 'Unloaders' (participants that reduced joint loads) and 'Loaders' (participants that increased joint loads). The primary symptomatic outcome was changes in knee symptoms, measured with the Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) questionnaire, during a subsequent 52 weeks weight maintenance period. The primary structural outcome was changes in tibiofemoral cartilage loss assessed semi-quantitatively (Boston Leeds Knee Osteoarthritis Score (BLOKS) from MRI after the 52 weight maintenance period.

Results: 157 participants (82% of the CAROT cohort) with medial and/or lateral knee OA were classified as Unloaders (n = 100) or Loaders (n = 57). The groups showed similar significant changes in symptoms (group difference: -2.4 KOOS points [95% CI -6.8:1.9]) and cartilage loss (group difference: -0.06 BLOKS points [95% CI -0.22:0.11) after 1 year, with no statistically significant differences between Loaders and Unloaders.

Conclusion: For obese patients undergoing a significant weight loss, increased knee joint loading for 1 year was not associated with accelerated symptomatic and structural disease progression compared to a similar weight loss group that had reduced ambulatory compressive knee joint loads.

Clinicaltrialsgov: NCT00655941.

Keywords: Cartilage; Gait; Joint loading; Osteoarthritis; Weight loss.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / pathology
  • Knee Joint / physiology
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / complications
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / pathology
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / rehabilitation*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Walking
  • Weight Loss / physiology
  • Weight Reduction Programs*
  • Weight-Bearing

Associated data