Nov 20, 2020
Study: Racket Sports Worse on Knee Arthritis, Joint Degeneration

A recent study released by the Radiological Society of North American has found racket sports, like tennis, pickleball, and racquetball, are among the worst physical activities for your knees.

This news is particularly alarming with the amount of elderly players who participate in racket sports, both competitively and recreationally.

Photo: Wesley Sykes / Great American Media Services

Study authors find racket sports cause greater deterioration in the medial tibial cartilage compartment. This is the area on the inside of the knee where arthritis typically sets in first.

“In our study, progression of overall knee joint degeneration was consistently higher in overweight and/or obese patients engaging in racket sports,” says lead study author Silvia Schirò in a media release. “We also found that workouts using an elliptical trainer were associated with reduced progression of overall knee joint and cartilage defects. Moreover, our findings showed that when comparing different low impact activities with each other, such as bicycling, elliptical trainer and swimming, the elliptical trainer was associated with the lowest increase in WORMS sub-scores over 48 months.”

The study is being presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

The main reason for this rapid decline is the number of high-speed lateral movements in these sports. These quick, side-to-side bursts of action can negatively impact the femoral-tibia compartment. This structure in the knee contains the femur condyle, the rounded end of the thighbone which helps it slide over the shinbone, and the meniscus. The meniscus is the rubbery, C-shaped piece of cartilage in between those two bones.

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“A large lateral force imparted at the foot during side-to-side movements may be driving large knee adduction moments, a key feature in medial compartment disease, which imparts high compressive loads on the medial tibia and femoral condyle,” Schirò explains. “In support of this premise, the racket sports group showed elevated cartilage degeneration in the medial tibia.”

For people who don’t want to give up their racket, the study notes there are alternatives to these high-stress sports.

To read the full study from the Radiological Society of North America, click here

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