Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Moving towards answers on the longer term outcomes of sports-related knee injuries

Associate Professor Ilana Ackerman and her collaborators have been awarded a research grant by MOVE, Australia’s national organisation for muscle, bone and joint health.

The grant will support a data linkage project that will, for the first time, quantify the burden of knee replacement surgery in Victoria after sports-related injury.

The multidisciplinary research team includes Professor Richard de Steiger (Epworth HealthCare and The University of Melbourne), Dr Megan Bohensky (The University of Melbourne) and Dr Joanne Kemp (La Trobe University and Federation University).

The project will estimate the risk of knee replacement surgery for osteoarthritis up to 15 years after hospital presentation for a sports-related knee injury, as well as the costs of knee replacement surgery after sports-related knee injury.

Associate Professor Ackerman is an experienced musculoskeletal researcher and orthopaedic physiotherapist. Her clinical and population-based research program focuses on quantifying the personal and societal burden of conditions such as osteoarthritis.

Although osteoarthritis is commonly associated with older age, it is increasingly recognised that younger people can also be affected. In Australia, over $600 million is annually spent on osteoarthritis-related healthcare for people of working age, predominantly for joint replacement surgery.

“Our previous research has shown that beyond pain and stiffness, osteoarthritis can impact substantially on a younger person’s quality of life, emotional wellbeing, and ability to work”, said Associate Professor Ackerman.

“Research shows that joint injury, such as anterior cruciate ligament rupture, is the greatest risk factor for knee osteoarthritis among younger people. The majority of these injuries occur during competitive sports participation and the early signs of knee osteoarthritis may be evident from young adulthood onwards,” she said.

A recent study examining the frequency and costs of sports injuries in Victoria from 2004-2010 found a significant rise in sports injuries over the seven year period. In particular, the number of knee and lower leg injuries increased by 27 per cent. Given the established link between injury and knee osteoarthritis, this could foreshadow a future epidemic of knee osteoarthritis.

While there is no ‘cure’, joint replacement surgery is the treatment of choice for older patients with severe osteoarthritis where medications and physiotherapy are no longer effective. However, the risk of knee replacement surgery after sports injury has not been investigated using population-level data.

“This project will also enable us to evaluate factors that impact on a person’s risk of knee replacement surgery after sports injury, to inform future sports injury prevention strategies,” said Associate Professor Ackerman.

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