Ultra-Endurance Athletes & Joint OA

Reference:Zingg MA, No damage of joint cartilage of the lower limbs in an ultra-endurance athlete–an MRI-study. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2013 Dec 5;14:343.

This single case study looked at the radiologic findings of a single competitive ultra-endurance athlete with 35 years of training.

After completing a full lower extremity MRI, including a microscopic MRI coil, they amazingly foundabsolutely no signs of joint damage or overuse changes.

It should also be told that this rare 49 year old, white male ultra-endurance athlete reported experiencing no pain during training and racing.

Conclusion of study: It is possible for a human athlete to train aggressively for 35 years and yet have no damage to his/her musculoskeletal system. Personal Comments: Let me be upfront here, I am not a fan of marathon running or ultra-endurance sports. I think they are potentially harmful to the human body. We have all seen endurance runners who present with various persistent over-use injuries and/or joint pain.

I am obligated with the goal of returning my patients to their desired function so I do my best to help them achieve their goal of marathon running. I recommend altering their biomechanics slightly, changing their shoes/inserts, strengthening muscles etc. but there comes a point where I just have to say, “I’m sorry, you need to reduce your training time and intensity.”

There is simply only so much the body can take. Don’t get me wrong; I am a fan or running, walking, jog/walks for short periods of time. I personally run almost daily for 10 minutes. I realize many laugh when I say 10 minutes, but first of all I feel the workout is good enough for me and secondly I get bored!

I also consider myself very lucky as to date I have not had any overuse injuries …I can proudly say I’ve never taken NSAIDs!

As much as I promote exercise and activity, I still believe that long distance running (e.g. 2-3 hours) is insane! Then again who am I to judge, if you have no pain, keep on going. What I do believe to be insane is continuing to do endurance sports when you have obvious pain and are simply masking it by NSAIDs. That is the definition of foolish …sorry to be so blunt!

Posted on: August 23, 2014

Categories: Relevant Physical Therapy Articles

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