It’s Just Not Tennis: Racket Sports May Make Knee Arthritis Worse

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tennis makes knee joint degeneration worse

A new study has revealed that racket sports may make knee arthritis worse in patients who are overweight.

While physical activity is generally encouraged to those who are overweight, this new research shows not all types of exercise are suitable. Here, we’ll look at what this latest research revealed, and which types of exercises are safer for overweight patients.

What did the study into knee joint degeneration reveal?

A high-powered MRI was used during the latest study to look at the rate of knee joint degeneration. The study included 415 obese or overweight patients, with an average age of 59.

The participants in the study were asked to keep a record while carrying out six different types of exercises. These included running/jogging, swimming, ball sports, elliptical trainer, bicycling and racket sports. Baseline MRI’s were carried out before a modified Whole-Organ Magnetic Resonance Imaging Score (WORMS) was used to measure changes within the patient’s knees over a period of four years. The higher the WORMS score, the more degeneration has occurred.

It was discovered that patients who participated in racket sports, saw their WORMS score increase dramatically. Racket sports were shown to have more damaging effects on the knees than running or jogging. Interestingly, patients using an elliptical trainer saw the lowest level of degeneration in the knee.

What is knee arthritis?

Knee osteoarthritis is a degenerative type of arthritis that occurs in the knee joint. It most commonly affects those aged 50 and over, though it can also occur in younger patients too.
The condition causes a number of symptoms which worsen over time. The most common symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Locking of the joint
  • Limited range of motion
  • Cracking or popping sounds

The condition develops due to a loss of cartilage between the joint. This causes the bones to rub together, causing unpleasant symptoms. Many patients end up requiring a knee replacement, though some may be treated using non-surgical methods.

Best exercises to avoid making knee arthritis worse

Overweight patients are advised to lose weight in order to help ease the symptoms of knee OA. However, as the recent study shows, some types of exercise can prove damaging to the joint. So, which exercises should you be focusing on if you’re looking to lose weight and protect the joint?

Ideally, you will want to focus on low-impact, gentle exercise to start with. This includes walking or jogging, alongside knee strengthening exercises. If you do still want to enjoy racket sports, you can switch to lower impact sports such as badminton.

Overall, this new study highlights the risks racket sports pose to overweight patients. Therefore, when looking to reduce weight prior to a knee replacement, lower impact sports are recommended.