To all the pavement pounders of the world, engineers from MIT in the U.S. offer a bit of a sound advice: if you're recovering from a knee injury or are at risk for arthritis later in life, go easy on your knees: if you're recovering from a knee injury or are at risk for arthritis later in life, go easy on your knees.
The common ailment osteoarthritis leads to deterioration of cartilage, the rubbery tissue that prevents bones from rubbing together. By studying the molecular properties of cartilage, MIT engineers have discovered how the earliest stages of arthritis make the tissue more susceptible to damage from physical activities such as running or jumping. Better options for those with vulnerable knees: try swimming and walking.
The researchers say that their findings could help develop tests to diagnose arthritis earlier in patients at high risk for the disease and also guide engineers in designing replacement cartilage. The results also suggest that athletes who suffer knee injuries such as a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) -- which gives them a greater chance of developing arthritis later in life -- should be cautious when returning to their sport following surgery.
"It's a clear signal to be careful of going right back out," said Alan Grodzinsky, lead research and MIT professor of biological, electrical and mechanical engineering. "Even though your knee may be stabilized, there's the possibility that deformation of cartilage at a high loading rate is still going to put it at risk."
Findings, announced April 17, appear online in Biophysical Journal.
If you're active, protecting your knees is vital, so be extra vigilant about warning signs. For one, don't ignore knee pain, advises WebMD. Also be at a healthy weight, since extra weight adds unnecessary strain on your joints. In addition, don't go overboard with your workouts but gradually add intensity or duration to your regimen to allow your body time to adjust.