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

The Olympian Study


Approximately 6.7 million adults in the UK are affected by osteoarthritis (OA), a leading cause of pain and disability worldwide. It can affect any joint but is most frequently seen in the small joints of the hands, the spine, hips and knees. Ten percent of the world’s population aged 60 years and older is estimated to have symptoms of OA, yet no treatment currently exists to prevent its onset. High-volume training and injury associated with practising elite sport may increase the risk of developing OA. To date, there is little evidence as to the long-term consequences are of practising elite sport. 

What the research hopes to achieve

This study will help us to understand:


  • Which injuries lead to the onset of OA and why
  • Levels and frequencies of physical activity that are safe for the joints
  • Whether these vary for type of exercise, sport, or individual. 


This study will potentially contribute to developing guidelines for the treatment and prevention of OA in later life for Great Britain’s Olympic athletes, plus national, international and recreational athletes. The results may foster further interest, investment and research, and provide information for those taking part in sports and exercise. In this way, people can continue to enjoy taking part in sport and exercise, whilst reducing risk of injury and the development of OA. 

Work Package Epidemiology (WP1)
Biomarkers (WP2)
Principal Investigator Prof Brigitte Scammell (University of Nottingham)
Investigator Dale Cooper
Collaborators British Olympic Association (BOA) and BOA Athletes' Commission
Participant info:

Participant Information sheet

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young people carrying Olympic torch