PARAMUS, NJ. -- One of the most popular and fastest growing sports in the United States, running totaled over 64 million participants last year alone. In the last three years, the number of master runners, or those over the age of 40, has grown to represent the largest age group of all half-marathon and marathon participants.
Although running has been shown to reduce the risk of disease, as well as having countless physical, psychological and emotional health benefits, controversy still exists regarding the detrimental effects of running. With a growing proportion of older runners, concern over the progression of osteoarthritis (OA) due to running has been examined by doctors and researchers.
A recent study comprised of data accumulated over 35 years evaluated the relationship between running and hip and knee OA. The study examined competitive runners, recreational runners and sedentary/non-running individuals. When comparing runners versus non-runners, 4 percent of runners had hip and/or knee OA while 10 percent of non-runners experienced OA. Interestingly, when comparing the two types of runners, 13 percent of competitive runners had hip and/or knee OA compared to only 4 percent in recreational runners. The results of this study suggest that running did not increase a person’s risk of OA, rather may actually be protective against the progression of hip and knee OA.
Additional research has shown that running over 30-40 miles per week increases the risk of injury, which may account for the higher prevalence of OA in competitive runners. However, there are many other factors that contribute to the risk of developing OA, including age, sex, weight, occupation and injury history. To avoid developing long or short-term injuries, it’s important to consult a medical professional before beginning any running program.
Curtis Wu, PT, DPT, CSCS is a physical therapist at HSS Rehabilitation in Paramus.
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