Although distance running is often associated with numerous health benefits, the impact on hip and knee joint health has been inconclusive up to this point. Long-distance running has been linked with an increased prevalence of arthritis in some studies, but others have shown an inverse association or no association at all.
In a recent study published by Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, authors Ponzio et al. investigate hip and knee health in active marathon runners, including the prevalence of pain, arthritis and arthroplasty (joint replacement) and associated risk factors.
To conduct their research, Ponzio et al. distributed a hip and knee health survey internationally to marathon runners from 18-79 years old, divided into subgroups by age, sex BMI and physical activity level. The survey questions assessed pain, personal and family history of arthritis, surgical history, running volume, personal record time, risk factors and current running status. The results were then compared with National Center for Health Statistics’ information for a matched group of the US population who were not marathon runners.
What the authors of the study found is that while age, family history and surgical history independently predicted an increased risk for hip and knee arthritis in active marathoners, there was no correlation with running history. In the researcher’s cohort study, the arthritis rate of active marathoners was below that of the general US population.
While the authors conclude that longitudinal follow-up is needed to determine the effects of marathon running on developing future knee and hip arthritis, it’s a hopeful and encouraging finding for long-distance runners.