Vigorous sports activities during childhood and adolescence can cause abnormal development of the femur in young athletes, resulting in a deformed hip with reduced rotation and pain during movement in later life.
This may explain why athletes are up to ten times more likely to develop osteoarthritis than more sedentary individuals, according to the research published online in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research.
Dr Klaus Siebenrock and his team, from the University of Bern in Switzerland, found that, in those studied, osteoarthritis of the hip was more prevalent in high-level athletes than in those who do not take part in regular sports.
It is also linked to higher intensity activities and greater physical loading of the hip. He noted other investigations have found that male athletes, particularly those who play football and handball and take part in competitive track and field activities involving running and jumping, are at greater risk of early osteoarthritis of the hip.
They looked at the physical condition and range of movement of 72 hips in 37 male professional basketball players and 76 hips in 38 control participants who had not participated in high-level sports.
They found evidence of deformity of the head of the femur, leading to abnormal contact between the femur and the hip socket, in men and adolescents who played in an elite basketball club since they were eight years old.
As a result, internal hip rotation was reduced and hip movements were more likely to be painful and these differences became even more pronounced after closure of the femoral growth plate during late adolescence