Knee and hip injuries in adolescents and young adults have been linked to osteoarthritis (OA) in those joints later in life, according to an article in a recent issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The Johns Hopkins Precursors Study, conducted over a 46-year period, was designed to identify the body's predictors of the aging process. The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging with investigator support by NIAMS, found that participants with a history of athletic or traumatic injury to the knee joint before age 22 had a higher rate of subsequent knee OA. In addition, knee and hip injuries during followup, in the participants' mid thirties, were also related to future knee and hip OA.

Dr. Allan Gelber of Johns Hopkins was the lead author on the paper. He and his colleagues recommend that physicians who treat young patients with athletic or traumatic injuries include stabilizing the joint with braces, and temporarily reducing high-impact exercise to minimize further damage of the injured joint as part of the treatment regimen. In addition, they advise physicians to advocate use of proper sports equipment under safe conditions to prevent joint injuries from occurring and decrease the long-term risk of OA disease later in life.

OA or degenerative joint disease mostly affects the cartilage, which is the "padding" between two bones. It is the most common type of arthritis and a leading cause of disability, especially among older people. Over 20 million Americans have OA.

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