“In my clinical practice as a physiotherapist, I can’t tell you the number of times people have asked, ‘Why didn’t someone tell me 20 or 30 years ago that my injury could lead to osteoarthritis or explain that I could do something to prevent it?’,” said Dr. Jackie Whittaker, a Research Scientist at Arthritis Research Canada and creator of the SOAR Program.
The good news is that we have really good evidence to suggest people can take action to lower their risk of developing osteoarthritis after a sports injury. The frequently asked questions, videos and other resources below are a great place to start.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is osteoarthritis?
What causes osteoarthritis?
When do people usually get osteoarthritis?
If we take into consideration that 80 per cent of people that have osteoarthritis have it in their knees, and that 10 to 15 years after a knee injury one can start to develop signs of OA, and then we consider that the most common age to have a knee injury is between 16 and 35, it is not uncommon to see people in their 20s and 30s with signs of OA in their knees if they have had a previous joint injury.
How common is it for someone to develop osteoarthritis after a sports injury?
How does a youth sport injury lead to osteoarthritis?
What are the biggest myths or misconceptions about osteoarthritis?
1) Only older people get it and it’s a consequence of aging and wear and tear of the joints. This isn’t the case. Young people can get osteoarthritis, which is a disease process and not a natural consequence of aging.
2) Osteoarthritis is caused by weight-bearing activities like running or jumping, as well as high-impact activities. What we are starting to understand is that osteoarthritis can actually be caused by inactivity and by really high levels of impact activity. Between those two levels, there is a very healthy amount of impact that keeps the joint healthy and functioning well.
3) There is nothing you can do about osteoarthritis. You just have to suffer with it until an orthopedic surgeon says, “Hey, it’s time. You can go ahead and have joint replacement surgery.” This is not true. We have really good evidence to suggest that many things can be done to minimize a person’s pain and improve their function to reduce symptoms and prevent osteoarthritis from impeding everyday life.
What's one stat that people might find shocking about osteoarthritis?
How big of a problem is osteoarthritis in Canada?
How can osteoarthritis impact a person's life?
Because they are less active and can do less of what they need to do, they can sometimes become socially isolated. We can see an increase in depression because of that. If someone is less physically active they can start to gain weight or fat tissue and that can lead to the development of other chronic conditions like diabetes and/or cardiovascular disease, which can limit or reduce a person’s life expectancy. Osteoarthritis often reduces overall quality of life.
How does a person currently recover from a sports injury in Canada?
Although that’s the ideal pathway, the reality, especially in Canada, is that private insurance coverage dictates whether a person can do physiotherapy. Someone can have an injury, access a medical practitioner, the emergency room or a family physician at no cost. However, whether or not someone goes to physiotherapy, and the amount of physiotherapy they receive, depends on the insurance coverage they have. So there isn’t a nice, linear path of care before someone is discharged and returns to their sport.
People often see a physician and a physiotherapist once or twice. They then try to work on their rehabilitation at home or they might see a surgeon and continue with rehab on their own and/or have surgery. They then make a decision about whether they should return to sport without actually knowing if they’ve got the capacity or functionally to do so.
How can a person prevent osteoarthritis?
What is the SOAR Program?
The program consists of education, a home-based exercise and physical activity program with tracking, and one-to-one physiotherapy counselling.
How does it work?
How is SOAR different from other programs?
SOAR is also unique because it focuses on young people that are at an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis because they’ve had a joint-related injury (so people in their 20s and 30s).
What do researchers hope SOAR will achieve?
Osteoarthritis is a serious disease. It’s not just normal wear and tear of the joints. Learn about the most common type of arthritis, what causes it, who it impacts, and more from Arthritis Research Canada Research Scientist, Dr. Jackie Whittaker.
Osteoarthritis Myths & Facts
There are three main myths about osteoarthritis: 1) It’s not serious. 2) It’s caused by normal wear and tear on the joints. 3) There’s nothing a person can do about it once they have it. Arthritis Research Canada’s Dr. Jackie Whittaker debunks some of the biggest myths surrounding the most common type of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis Changes Lives
Osteoarthritis can impact many aspects of a person’s life. Some people who start to have degeneration in their joints develop pain. That pain can start to restrict their ability to function, so they might have difficulty walking, climbing stairs, or doing activities that are important to them (whether that be related to recreation, family life, or occupation). Dr. Jackie Whittaker, a Research Scientist at Arthritis Research Canada, explains how being diagnosed with osteoarthritis can interfere with daily life.
How can a person prevent osteoarthritis? That’s the million dollar question! We don’t know for sure. However, we do know that some factors – like a previous joint injury or high amounts of fat tissue – increase a person’s risk of developing this disease. Find out more about potential ways to prevent osteoarthritis.
About 50 per cent of people who experience a knee joint injury will develop osteoarthritis within five to 10 years. This is a serious problem. We’ve created a unique program that aims to help prevent osteoarthritis after a sport-related knee injury. SOAR, or STOP OsteoARthritis, is a new knee health program. It’s virtually delivered and designed to help people, who have had a previous knee joint injury, navigate their knee health and reduce their risk for osteoarthritis once they’ve been discharged from care for that knee injury. Learn more from the research scientist behind the program.
Targeted Movement and Arthritis
In this episode of Arthritis Wellness Conversations, host Sandra Sova talks with expert guest Dr. Jackie Whittaker, Research Scientist at Arthritis Research Canada, and Arthritis Patient Advisory Board members about targeted movement and how it can help you lead a better life with arthritis.
Musculoskeletal Research and Bone and Joint health
In this episode of Arthritis Consumer Experts’ Arthritis At Home, Dr. Jackie Whittaker highlights the importance of exercise and how staying active can help prevent, maintain, and manage bone and joint related pain and health. She concludes the interview by sharing insights and updates on osteoarthritis treatment.
Is Osteoarthritis Preventable?
In this episode of Joint Action, Dr. Jackie Whittaker discusses osteoarthritis prevention, risk factors and prevention strategies. Osteoarthritis is the most common joint condition, affecting more than 300 million people worldwide. There is no cure and current management strategies are focused on alleviating symptoms. However, research in the field of osteoarthritis prevention has been emerging, and although there is still work to be done, there have been new insights into modifiable risk factors such as obesity and joint injury.
Arthritis at UNH: Arthritis Web Seminar Series Lecture 40
Arthritis Research Canada Research Scientist, Dr. Jackie Whittaker, talks osteoarthritis, musculoskeletal rehabilitation and OA prevention in this webinar.
Exercise First E-Knee
Dr. Jackie Whittaker discusses sport-related joint injuries, risk of osteoarthritis, managing risk, as well as her research/work to develop a program to reduce a person’s chances of developing this type of arthritis after a knee injury.
Playing the Long Game: Consensus for Preventing Osteoarthritis after an ACL tear
Arthritis Research Canada Research Scientist, Dr. Jackie Whittaker, discusses osteoarthritis and preventing it after an ACL tear in this Osteoarthritis Action Alliance webinar.
Preventing Osteoarthritis after a Sport-Related Knee Injury: The SOAR (Stop OsteoARthritis) Program
SOAR Recruitment Notice
Do People with Knee OA Use Guideline-Consistent Treatments After an Orthopaedic Surgeon Recommends Nonsurgical Care?
Does a History of Youth Sport-Related Knee Injury Still Impact Accelerometer-Measured Levels of Physical Activity After 3-12 Years?
"Every New Beginning Comes from Some Other Beginning's End": Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury and Post-Traumatic Knee Osteoarthritis
Efficacy of the SOAR Knee Health Program: Protocol for a Two-Arm Stepped-Wedge Randomized Delayed-Control Trial
Health-Related Outcomes 3-15 Years Following Ankle Sprain Injury in Youth Sport: What Does the Future Hold?
'I Feel I'm Leading the Charge.' A Qualitative Analysis of a Virtual Physiotherapist-Guided Program for Persons with Sport-Related Knee Trauma
Balance, Reframe, and Overcome: The Attitudes, Priorities, and Perceptions of Exercise-Based Activities in Youth 12-24 Months After a Sport-Related ACL Injury
Removing the Training Wheels: Embracing the Social, Contextual and Psychological in Sports Medicine
A Lifespan Approach to Osteoarthritis Prevention
Searching for the Holy Grail: A Systematic Review of Health-Related Quality of Life Measures for Active Youth
Osteoarthritis Year in Review 2020: Rehabilitation and Outcomes
Vertical Drop Jump Biomechanics of Patients With a 3- to 10-Year History of Youth Sport-Related Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction
Secondary Consequences of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis in Children and Adolescents with Knee Involvement: Physical Activity, Adiposity, Fitness, and Functional Performance
Patient Beliefs About Who and What Influences Their Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis Symptoms and Progression
Factors That Patients Consider in Their Choice of Non-Surgical Management for Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis: Formative Qualitative Research for a Discrete Choice Experiment
OPTIKNEE Group: working in preventing ostearthritis after knee injury
Combined Hormonal Contraceptives Do Not Protect Against Musculoskeletal Injuries or Conditions
What? I can get osteoarthritis in my thirties!?
Dr. Jackie Whittaker’s work focuses on the connection between youth sports injuries and early onset osteoarthritis, as well as OA prevention. Millions of Canadians currently live with the pain and disability of this disease and it is estimated that 12 million Canadians will have osteoarthritis by 2040. We sat down with Dr. Whittaker to learn more about her exciting field of research.
Knee Health: Helping Curb the Osteoarthritis Epidemic in Canada
Around 500,000 youth in Canada injure their knees while playing sports each year. Of those people, 50 per cent will develop osteoarthritis within 10 years. That is a lot of Canadians getting diagnosed with the most common type of arthritis by their 30th birthday.
Surgery Not the Only Option for People with Knee Osteoarthritis
Only one in five people with knee osteoarthritis follow advice/international guidelines that recommend non-surgical treatments (e.g. education, exercise, weight management, and pain medications) as first-line treatments.
Online Decision Aid Helps Patients Weigh Risks and Benefits of Surgery vs. Other Treatments
A research team led by Arthritis Research Canada scientists has developed an online tool, called a decision aid, that provides individualized information on total knee replacement surgery and non-surgical treatment options to people with knee osteoarthritis. In a randomized clinical trial, participants who used the decision aid prior to their surgical consultation had a better understanding of what their options were and the potential risks and benefits. This led to patients being more informed about their options and making better quality treatment decisions, even if that meant deciding against surgery.
Alberta in Need of More Resources for Rural Residents with Osteoarthritis
New research reveals Albertans who have osteoarthritis, and live in rural parts of the province, have limited access to the care they need to manage their disease, symptoms and pain.
At-Home Exercise Guide for Arthritis
Physical activity plays an important role in managing arthritis – especially when it comes to reducing pain and improving mobility. Yet, many people living with different types of this disease do not meet recommended physical activity levels. In fact, 50 per cent of people in Canada are not physically active during their free time, and the rate is even lower in people with arthritis.
Preventing Knee Osteoarthritis in Youth Who Play Sports
When kids injure their knees playing sports like soccer, not many of us think about how that injury will manifest itself 10 or 15 years down the road. Millions of Canadians currently live with the pain and disability of osteoarthritis. It is estimated that by 2040, 25 per cent of all Canadians will have osteoarthritis. This percentage will be higher in those who suffer a traumatic knee injury.
Youth, Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Risk and Prevention
A lot of young people are involved in sports, and a lot of sports can lead to knee injuries. These injuries can, in turn, lead to a higher risk of osteoarthritis later in life, due to both damage to the joint and potential weight gain that can result from lower activity levels after an injury. Dr. Jackie Whittaker, a physiotherapist and assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of British Columbia, is heading up a research team that’s looking to get a better understanding of how to delay or prevent OA from developing by improving joint health in young people.
Knee Injuries Plague Women Soccer Stars
Several top women players are missing the FIFA World Cup because of knee injuries. Research shows women are more prone than men, but experts say the reasons go far beyond biology.
Women’s World Cup: The Epidemic of ACL Tears in Female Soccer Players is About More than Just Biology
Over 25 of the world’s top female soccer players are missing the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup because of ACL tears, including Canada’s Janine Beckie. Female athletes are two to eight times more likely to tear their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) compared to males, and their odds of returning to sport within five years are 25 per cent lower.
Physical Activity Tips for Adults (18-64 years)
Physical activity plays an important role in your health, well-being and quality of life. Improve your health by being active as part of a healthy lifestyle. Learn more about the Government of Canada’s physical activity tips.
24-Hour Movement Guidelines
Canada’s first ever 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults offer clear direction on what a healthy 24 hours looks like for Canadian adults aged 18-64 years and 65 years or older.
Life After Youth Sports Injury
Youth who have had a sports-related knee injury are more likely to develop knee osteoarthritis. Researchers found that youth and young adults experience a poorer health-related quality of life – including physical, psychological, and social aspects – even as long as three to 12 years after injury. Those with previous knee injuries who had a more complex injury history, injury type, or knee pain were even more likely to experience poorer outcomes.
How to Save Your Knees Without Giving Up Your Workout
There’s no magic bullet to knee health, but staying active and building muscles around the joint are crucial. Find out more in this New York Times article.
Knee Health: Helping Curb the Osteoarthritis Epidemic in Canada
Around 500,000 youth in Canada injure their knees while playing sports each year. Of those people, 50 per cent will develop osteoarthritis within 10 years. That is a lot of Canadians getting diagnosed with the most common type of arthritis by their 30th birthday. It is estimated that by 2040, 12 million Canadians will be living with osteoarthritis.
Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy Insights Podcast: Old knee, Young Adults
Protecting the health of our best and brightest stars of the future holds a special place in Dr. Jackie Whittaker’s heart. How do you ensure youth athletes stay healthy and happy in sport, and what do you do if it goes pear-shaped? Dr. Whittaker shares her tips, honed from years of clinical practice and field-leading research, on planning and managing return to sport after serious knee injury.
Dr. Jackie Whittaker on Osteoarthritis Prevention and Physiotherapy in Sports
Shanon McQuitty, a member of the Arthritis Patient Advisory Board of Arthritis Research Canada, interviews Dr. Jackie Whittaker, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of British Columbia, on osteoarthritis prevention and physiotherapy in sports.
Hey OA! Podcast
Dr. Jackie Whittaker, an assistant professor of physical therapy at the University of Alberta, compares primary, secondary, and tertiary osteoarthritis prevention, discusses the challenges and opportunities for research with youth populations, and chats about using Twitter for research.
Please click “Learn More” below and scroll down to episode 17.
TSN Radio Edmonton 1260 Krush Performance ‘Optimizing Health after a Youth Sport Injury’
Dr. Jackie Whittaker talks about recovering from youth sports injuries on TSN Radio Edmonton 1260 Krush Performance.