Is There an Association Between a History of Running and Symptomatic Knee Osteoarthritis? A Cross-Sectional Study From the Osteoarthritis Initiative

Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2017 Feb;69(2):183-191. doi: 10.1002/acr.22939.


Objective: Regular physical activity, including running, is recommended based on known cardiovascular and mortality benefits. However, controversy exists regarding whether running can be harmful to knees. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the relationship of running with knee pain, radiographic osteoarthritis (OA), and symptomatic OA.

Methods: This was a retrospective cross-sectional study of Osteoarthritis Initiative participants (2004-2014) with knee radiograph readings, symptom assessments, and completed lifetime physical activity surveys. Using logistic regression, we evaluated the association of history of leisure running with the outcomes of frequent knee pain, radiographic OA, and symptomatic OA. Symptomatic OA required at least 1 knee with both radiographic OA and pain.

Results: Of 2,637 participants, 55.8% were female, the mean ± SD age was 64.3 ± 8.9 years, and the mean ± SD body mass index was 28.5 ± 4.9 kg/m2 ; 29.5% of these participants ran at some time in their lives. Unadjusted odds ratios of pain, radiographic OA, and symptomatic OA for those prior runners and current runners compared to those who never ran were 0.83 and 0.71 (P for trend = 0.002), 0.83 and 0.78 (P for trend = 0.01), and 0.81 and 0.64 (P for trend = 0.0006), respectively. Adjusted models were similar, except radiographic OA results were attenuated.

Conclusion: There is no increased risk of symptomatic knee OA among self-selected runners compared with nonrunners in a cohort recruited from the community. In those without OA, running does not appear to be detrimental to the knees.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Running*