Prevalence of osteoarthritis in former elite athletes: a systematic overview of the recent literature

Rheumatol Int. 2015 Mar;35(3):405-18. doi: 10.1007/s00296-014-3093-0. Epub 2014 Jul 19.


The aim of this study was to systematically review the recent scientific literature to explore the prevalence of osteoarthritis (OA) in former elite athletes from team and individual sports. A systematic review of observational studies was conducted. Based on three categories of keywords (and synonyms), a sensitive search strategy was built in order to search MEDLINE and SPORTDiscus from 2000 to 2014. The data from included studies presenting a prevalence rate of OA as an outcome measure were extracted using a standardised extraction form, and their methodological quality was described. Fifteen studies were identified through our search strategy, studies being rather heterogeneous with regard to their study population and to the definition and assessment of OA. Hip OA ranged from 2 to 60%, and knee OA from 16 to 95%. Prevalence rates of general, lower limbs or hip/knee OA ranged from 1 to 59%. Prevalence of neck, back, shoulder and ankle OA was reported only in single studies (16, 18, 33 and 3%, respectively). This study showed that prevalence of OA, especially in their lower limbs, seems to be high among former elite athletes from team and individual sports compared to the general population and other occupational sectors.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Ankle Joint
  • Athletes / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Osteoarthritis / epidemiology*
  • Osteoarthritis, Hip / epidemiology
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / epidemiology
  • Osteoarthritis, Spine / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Shoulder Joint