High levels of physical activity may damage knees and increase risk for osteoarthritis

September 20, 2015

Subsequent MRI analysis by two musculoskeletal radiologists indicated a relationship between physical activity levels and frequency and severity of knee damage. Specific knee abnormalities identified included meniscal lesions, cartilage lesions, bone marrow edema and ligament lesions. Abnormalities were associated solely with activity levels and were not age or gender specific.

"The prevalence of the knee abnormalities increased with the level of physical activity," Dr. Stehling said. "In addition, cartilage defects diagnosed in active people were more severe."

The findings also indicated that some activities carry a greater risk of knee damage over time.

"This study and previous studies by our group suggest that high-impact, weight-bearing physical activity, such as running and jumping, may be worse for cartilage health," Dr. Stehling said. "Conversely, low-impact activities, such as swimming and cycling, may protect diseased cartilage and prevent healthy cartilage from developing disease."

Dr. Stehling noted that there is a need for prospective studies to evaluate the influence of low-impact versus high-impact physical activity on disease progression.

SOURCE Radiological Society of North America (RSNA)