Versus Arthritis Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis
University of Nottingham

An investigation of the prevalence of knee osteoarthritis and pain in former professional male footballers in the United Kingdom


Osteoarthritis (OA) is not just a disease of the elderly – but can affect people of any age. Taking part in sports is a positive part of an active and healthy lifestyle. It cuts the risk of injuries and disease and helps improve mental health, wellbeing and physical fitness (Beijsterveldt 2012). Elite athletes such as footballers, however, are exposed to sports-related health risks, since they take part in high intensity training activities over a long period, and often sustain direct knee injuries when playing football during their career (Kuijt et al., 2012). There is a lack of evidence about the risk factors that could explain the high numbers of retired professional footballers suffering with knee pain and knee OA. 

What the research hopes to achieve

This research aims to: 

  1. Determine how common knee OA is in retired male professional footballers compared to the general population; and 
  2. Identify the specific risk factors linked to knee OA by comparing physical characteristics such as height and weight, lifestyle and activity data between footballers who develop knee OA and those who do not.
Work Package Epidemiology (WP1)
Principal Investigators Prof Michael Doherty & Dr Weiya Zhang (University of Nottingham)
Investigators Dr Gwen Fernandes & Sanjay Parekh
Collaborators SPIRE Healthcare, Professional Footballers' Association, Football Association and FMARC (FIFA’S Medical and Research Centre)

male footballers