soccer injuries | hip injuries

Soccer injuries: Why ex-pro soccer players have hip problems

Former professional soccer players are 10 times more at risk of osteoarthritis of the hip than age-matched controls, even if they haven’t sustained hip injuries during their playing careers. That’s the amazing conclusion of a new British study.

The researchers drew up a questionnaire designed to assess the prevalence of osteoarthritis (OA) of various joints to the managers of the 92 league and premiership soccer clubs in England and Wales. Of the 74 who responded to the survey, 68 were ex-professional soccer players. The self-reported prevalence of OA of the hip in those managers was then compared with radiographic evidence of OA of the hip in 136 ‘controls’ matched for age and sex.

Of the 68 ex-players, nine (13.24%) reported having OA of the hip, and six of these had undergone eight complete hip replacements. Of the 136 controls, only two (1.47%) showed radiographic evidence of OA and none had undergone hip replacements.

The most surprising aspect of these findings was that none of the ex-players with OA of the hip reported having any hip injuries during their playing days. ‘This’, say the researchers, ‘is in contrast with OA of the knee, which is associated with previous knee surgery or injury.’

Why the difference? The researchers speculate that some apparent groin injuries picked up by soccer players are actually repetitive minor hip joint injuries rather than soft tissue injuries.

The prevalence of OA of the hip among ex-professional soccer players in this study confirms the findings of a previous study, but the comparison with non-soccer players is a fresh development. The researchers recognise that their study has limitations – mainly the lack of scientific rigour in comparing self-reported OA with radiographically-identified disease.

However, the findings are significant enough to point to the need for further studies comparing radiographic evidence in both groups – and, according to the researchers, such a study is already in progress.

Br J Sports Med 2003;37:80-81

Isabel Walker

soccer injuries, hip injuries

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