Introduction: Occupational exposure to heavy lifting and stair climbing are associated with radiographic hip osteoarthritis (OA). This study examined whether these activities are associated with early structural hip joint changes in a community-based population.
Methods: In total, 198 community-based people with no history of hip disease, including OA, had 3.0 T-magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess hip cartilage volume, defects and bone marrow lesions (BMLs). Recall of occupational exposure to heavy lifting and stair climbing aged 18 to 30 years and in the previous 10 years were collected. A persistence score was defined as exposure at neither time point (0), at one time point (1) or at both time points (2).
Results: Exposure to heavy lifting when aged 18 to 30 years was associated with BMLs of the central superolateral femoroacetabular region (odds ratio (OR) 3.9, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.6 to 9.8, P<0.01), with persistence score associated with cartilage defects in the central superolateral region of the femoral head (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.0 to 2.5, P=0.04). Exposure to stair climbing aged 18 to 30 years and persistence score were associated with an increased risk of cartilage defects in the central superolateral femoral head and BMLs in the central superolateral and posterior femoroacetabular regions (OR range 2.1 to 3.2, all P≤0.03).
Conclusions: Occupational exposure to heavy lifting and stair climbing are associated with hip structural abnormalities. If confirmed by longitudinal data, such associations may explain how occupational activities affect the hip joint and may identify new targets for the prevention of hip OA.