Knee Problems a Risk for Retired Professional Footballers

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Retired professional footballers are two to three times more likely to develop knee pain, knee osteoarthritis and need knee replacement surgery than other people, according to a new study by Arthritis Research UK. What makes them more susceptible and what are the risk factors for developing knee problems?


‘Microtrauma’ caused by football

The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, revealed that ex-footballers are more likely to have problems with their knees earlier in their lives, when compared with the general population. More than 1,200 retired professional footballers were recruited to the study, and compared with more than 4,000 men from the general population. The increased risk of knee problems among the footballers was high, even when adjusting for other risk factors such as significant knee injury. However, the ex-footballers were less likely to suffer from conditions and diseases such as diabetes, heart attacks and cancer.The study concluded that the ‘repetitive microtrauma’ caused by playing football is likely to be the main cause of the increased risk of knee osteoarthritis.


Reasons for needing knee surgery

Knee surgery is needed when the knee joint is worn or damaged, leading to pain and reduced mobility.Osteoarthritis is the most common reason for someone needing knee replacement surgery. Other reasons include gout, knee injury, rheumatoid arthritis and haemophilia.


Osteoarthritis symptoms

Osteoarthritis happens when the protective cartilage at the end of bones breaks down. This can mean the affected area gets inflamed, causing pain and swelling. There are several risk factors for osteoarthritis, including: a joint injury; the joints being damaged by another condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout; age; and obesity, which puts strain on the joints.Symptoms of osteoarthritis range from mild to severe. The main symptoms are stiff, painful joints. You may be less able to move easily, and have a restricted range of movement, and the joints may ‘creak’ or ‘crack’ when you move.


Knee replacement surgery

Adults of any age can have knee replacement surgery, and more people are now having the procedure at a younger age, particularly those who are more susceptible to knee problems, such as retired professional footballers.If the knee is so damaged that you have severe pain, swelling and stiffness, you may be recommended knee surgery.There are two main types of surgery – total knee replacement (where both sides of the knee are replaced) and partial knee replacement (where only one side of the knee is replaced).


Surgical procedure

During knee replacement surgery the worn ends of the bones in the knee joints are removed and replaced with metal or plastic parts. The operation is usually done under general anaesthetic or under spinal or epidural anaesthetic (where you can’t feel anything from the waist down). Knee replacement is now a very common operation and can significantly improve mobility and quality of life, and reduce pain from conditions such as osteoarthritis.

For further information regarding knee surgery please click here.

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