How does running affect the knee joint in those with osteoarthritis?


Study Title: The immediate effects of running on tibiofemoral cartilage integrity in people with and without knee osteoarthritis.

Co-Principal Investigators:

Dr. Michael Hunt, PhD, PT
Associate Professor, Department of Physical Therapy
Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia

Dr. Jean-Francois Esculier, PhD, PT,
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Physical Therapy
Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia

Start Date: 2017   

End Date:  TBA

Why do this research?

In 2010, it was estimated that 4.5 million Canadians (13% of total population) had osteoarthritis (OA), a number that is projected to increase to 10.5 million (26% of population) by 2040. The knee is very commonly affected, and physical activity is widely recommended as an effective treatment approach for knee OA. While running is an activity providing many benefits to general health, many people with knee OA stop running because they are unsure if it is safe for them to keep doing activity involving impact. The goal of this study is to evaluate the effects of running on the knee joint and knee cartilage. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), we will compare how knee cartilage responds to running in people with and without OA. This will allow us to eventually advise people with knee OA about the safety of running.

What will be done?

This study will take place at UBC Hospital in Vancouver. Using MRI, we will assess different measures of knee cartilage in individuals with and without OA. Then, participants will run on a treadmill for 30 minutes. After running, we will evaluate knee cartilage again using the same imaging. This will allow us to understand how cartilage of people with OA reacts to the impact of running. We will also evaluate if cartilage reacts differently in people with OA compared to people without OA.

Who is involved?

We will recruit 24 women aged 40 years and older who practice running as a hobby. Twelve of them will have knee OA and 12 will not have OA. Two patients with OA were involved in providing feedback and insight into the project. The Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute will also help to recruit participants by disseminating information about the study to patient populations.


Dr. David Wilson, BEng, DPhil, Investigator, BC Children’s Hospital; Professor, Department of Orthopaedics, University of British Columbia

Dr. Alex Rauscher, PhD, Investigator, BC Children’s Hospital; Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of British Columbia

Dr. Jack Taunton, MD, MSc, Professor Emeritus, Sport and Exercise Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia

Funding Agency:

This study is funded by the Canadian Academy of Sports and Exercise Medicine and by the Physiotherapy Foundation of Canada.

How do people get involved?

Female runners with and without knee OA who are interesting in taking part in this project can contact Jean-Francois Esculier, jean-francois.esculier@ubc.ca, a physiotherapist and postdoctoral fellow at the Motion Analysis and Biofeedback Laboratory (UBC), who is co-leading the project. They will be asked to answer screening questions about their level of physical activity and health status/history. Then, they will be invited to participate if their profile corresponds to the study criteria.