Osteoarthritis in Athletes Versus Nonathletes: A Systematic Review

Sports Med Arthrosc Rev. 2022 Jun 1;30(2):78-86. doi: 10.1097/JSA.0000000000000339. Epub 2022 May 4.


Introduction: Joint overload and sport-related injuries may accelerate the development of osteoarthritis (OA). A systematic review of the literature was performed to establish the risk of athletes to develop premature OA compared with nonathletes.

Materials and methods: This systematic review was conducted according to the PRISMA guidelines. PubMed, Google scholar, Embase, and Web of Science databases were accessed in June 2021. All the published clinical studies investigating OA onset in athletes versus nonathletes were considered. Studies reporting data on secondary and/or post-traumatic OA were excluded.

Results: Data from 32 articles (20,288 patients) were retrieved. The mean age was 67.8±10.0 years and the mean body mass index was 25.0±2.5 kg/m2. 74% (6859 patients) of the athletes suffered from premature OA. Of them, 21% were active in soccer, 11% in handball, 11% in ice-hockey, 3% in football, and 0.3% in rugby. 26% of the athletes reported no significant differences in OA progression compared with healthy controls. Of these athletes, 47% were runners, 5% dancers, and 1% triathletes.

Conclusion: Certain sports, such as soccer, handball, ice-hockey, and rugby are more likely to be associated with premature knee and hip OA. Conversely, runners and ballet dancers do not evidence significant increase in OA. Moderate and recreational exposure to aerobic sports does not accelerate the development of OA.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Athletes
  • Hockey*
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis, Hip* / epidemiology
  • Osteoarthritis, Hip* / etiology
  • Soccer*