Risk and consequences of osteoarthritis after a professional football career: a systematic review of the recent literature

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2014 Aug;54(4):494-504.


Background: The aim of the present study was to assess whether previous injury is a risk determinant for knee and ankle osteoarthritis (OA) in former professional football players and to explore OA-related activity and work limitations.

Methods: To retrieve the relevant recent literature, the Medline, Embase and Sportdiscus databases were systematically searched for studies published from January 2000 to May 2012. Included studies must be primary studies that are written in English, Dutch, French or German and involve former professional football players; injury had to be studied as an independent variable; and knee/ankle OA, work participation or limited activities had to be described as an outcome. The data from included studies were extracted using a standardised extraction form, and the methodological quality was assessed.

Results: No studies were retrieved about injury as a risk determinant for knee/ankle OA in former professional football players. Four studies about OA-related activity and work limitations were included (three of high and one of moderate methodological quality). Up to 17% of former professional football players with knee/ankle OA reported suffering from joint pain and discomfort during activities such as squatting, walking and climbing stairs. Former professional football players with knee/ankle OA reported that their conditions were very painful, chronically painful and affected their daily lives, while 28% reported work-related limitations.

Conclusion: Knee and ankle OA in former professional football players causes joint pain and discomfort that has negative consequences for daily life and work activities. An OA health examination programs should be developed to empower the sustainable health and functioning of professional football players.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Ankle Injuries / complications
  • Ankle Injuries / epidemiology
  • Ankle Joint*
  • Chronic Pain / etiology
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / complications
  • Knee Injuries / epidemiology
  • Osteoarthritis / complications
  • Osteoarthritis / epidemiology*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / complications
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Soccer / injuries*
  • Work Capacity Evaluation