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Research Roundup – Habitual running ‘may protect against knee osteoarthritis, not cause it’ states new study.

Well would you look at that!  Times are a changing in the old medical world and this time we are getting it right.  We feel pretty strongly here at the office that often times, bones are not thought of as living  objects and that most people feel that bones are just hard, solid pieces of calcium that are ridged and dead.  This is not true, bones adapt to stress by actually becoming denser and this is why keeping active as you get older is very important.  Julius Wolff postulated in the late 1800’s that bones in a health person or animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed.  This is now known as Wolff’s Law, and is very important in those concerned with keeping bone density increased as we grow into our twilight years.  We also know that when bones and joints are stressed, they actually remodel themselves in some cases to help cope with the stress placed on them.

For better than 50 years, a lot of old, dogmatic ideas have clung to the running world that “running is probably bad for your knees” and even worse yet, “squatting is probably bad for your knees”.  Please understand that both of these activities are contraindicated in someone who already has osteoarthritis, however someone without issues related to arthritis should not avoid running or squatting.  When the website, posted the article “Habitual running ‘may protect against knee osteoarthritis, not cause it’ “ we were VERY excited that someone had taken on the stigma that running is probably NOT bad for your knees! 

Running article related to Arthritis:

The article jumps right into the thick of it with an opening statement of “Contrary to previous research, a new study suggests that engaging in running on a regular basis does not raise the risk of developing osteoarthritis of the knee.  In fact, it may even help protect against the condition”.  As a company that primarily works on runners, we already knew that this article was getting to get right after it!

In the study, 2,683 participants were analyzed with a mean age of 64.5 years of age.  The participants were part of a study named the Osteoarthritis Initiative.  The patients in the study were assessed at baseline for symptoms of osteoarthritis and had x-rays of the knee taken.  The patients also took a standardized survey.  Knee x-rays were then taken two years later and were assessed for signs of radiographic knee osteoarthritis.  ROA – Radiographic Knee Osteoarthritis is a term used for when the patient has findings on x-ray to support the findings of arthritis, but pain is not present.  If the patients had regular pain in the knee as well radiographic findings of osteoarthritis, they were considered to have symptomatic osteoarthritis, which is what we think of as arthritis in the everyday sense.  Any participants who had undergone a complete knee replacement were categorized as having frequent knee pain, and SOA (symptomatic osteoarthritis).

So, after all this is said and done, the study had found some decent evidence that habitual running at any point in life “is not harmful to the knee joint”.  This is a pretty big win for those of us in the running crowd because for years we have been subjected to the idea that “running is bad for your knees”.  When I told my own father I was shooting to train for my first marathon, the first thing he responded with was “isn’t that much running going to be hard on your knees?”.  I looked at him and smiled and said well, there is only one way to find out.

The team in this study agreed to present the results of the study at the American College of Rheumatology’s Annual Meeting in Boston, MA.  The team also agreed that this study showed us two things.  Runners with a lower BMI (Body Mass Index) were more likely to engage in running and that results suggest that regular running does not raise the risk of knee arthritis among the general population and that it may actually protect against the disease.  The team was also adamant that this study does NOT prove that where regular running may cause harm to individuals who already have knee arthritis.  The lead researcher stated this, “However, in people who do not have knee osteoarthritis, there is no reason to restrict participation in habitual running at any time in life from the prospective that it does not appear to be harmful to the knee joint.”.

The article and study are great news for those of us in the running community.  The article online at was written by Honor Whiteman.

The study referenced is as below:

American College of Rheumatology news release, accessed 14 November 2014.

Additional source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, osteoarthritis, accessed 14 November 2014.
The reference to Honor Whitemans article is found at:

Whiteman, H. (2014, November 16). “Habitual running ‘may protect against knee osteoarthritis, not cause it’.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from

If you have questions about running, running related injuries, osteoarthritis, or Sports Medicine, Dr. Kemenosh and Dr. Gross have both treated everything from the occasional weekend warrior to the professional athlete.  Give us a call at our office so we can see if our methods are right for you.  We keep regular hours in Laurel Springs (Clementon), Haddonfield, Washington Township (Sewell) and Somers Point New Jersey!