Preventing osteoarthritis (OA) after a sport-related injury

A program to prevent osteoarthritis after a sport-related knee injury

Scientific Study title:

Preventing Osteoarthritis after a Sport-Related Knee Injury: The SOAR (Stop OsteoARthritis) Program


Principal Investigator:

Jackie L. Whittaker, PT, PhD: Associate Professor, University of British Columbia; Research Scientist, Arthritis Research Canada


Start Date and End Date:

January 2020 – December 2023


Why do this research?

In Canada, about 500,000 youth hurt their knee every year while playing sports. Half of them go on to develop knee osteoarthritis (OA) at a young age. Following a knee injury, people may have weaker knee muscles, become less physically active, and gain weight. The injury, in combination with these other factors greatly raises OA risk. The treatment of youth knee injuries tends to focus on returning to playing sports, with little effort spent on OA prevention and education following an injury. With a team of patients and healthcare providers, we have developed a new online exercise-based program to help boost recovery from a knee injury and reduce risk for osteoarthritis. The SOAR or – Stop OsteoARthritis program aims to improve user’s ability to self-manage their osteoarthritis risk through education, personalized exercise, activity tracking, and weekly action planning. This research is a key step forward in changing how we treat these injuries in Canada.


What will be done?

We will divide the research into two parts. The first part will test what young people with knee injuries think of the SOAR program. First, they will attend a ‘knee camp’ to learn more about their OA risk and how to better manage it. A physiotherapist will look at each person’s knee to make a personalized exercise program and set goals for exercise. They will give Fitbits to each participant to track how much exercise they are doing. There will be weekly follow-ups with the physiotherapist to see how the exercises are going. After the program, participants will give us their feedback so we can improve SOAR and make it more relevant to this group.

The second part of the research will test if the SOAR program can reduce OA risk factors. We will put the participants into two groups: one group will do the SOAR program right away and the other group will wait two months to receive it. Comparing these two groups will tell us if SOAR is effective in improving knee strength and physical activity levels, as well as informing young people about their knee OA risk. Once again, participants will offer feedback about their experiences.


Who is involved? 

This research will take place at the University of British Columbia’s Physical Therapy and Research Clinic. The SOAR research team has and will continue to include research trainee, patient, and clinician partners to make sure SOAR is practical and relevant. We will recruit participants with the help of our patient and clinician partners, from community physiotherapy clinics, sport organizations across the greater Vancouver area, and Arthritis Research Canada.


Funding Agency:

This project is supported by:

1. BC Support Unit Patient-Oriented Research (P2P) Award (administered by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research) – Feasibility and Acceptability of the Stop OsteoArthRitis (SOAR) Program

2. The Arthritis Society STARS Career Development Award – Preventing Osteoarthritis after a Sport-Related Knee Injury

3. The Canadian institutes of Health Research through a Canadian Musculoskeletal Rehab Research Network Pilot Grant – Feasibility of the TeleRehab Stop OsteoARthritis (SOAR) Program

Dr. Whittaker is supported by a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Scholar Award (2020-2025) and Arthritis Society STARS Career Development Award (2019-2022).


Who is on the research team?


Michael Hunt, PT PhD, Associate Professor, Associate Dean, Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, Department of Physical Therapy, University of British Columbia

Amber Mosewich, PhD, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport and Recreation, University of Alberta

Linda Li, PT, PhD, Senior Scientist Arthritis Research Canada, Professor Department of Physical Therapy, University of British Columbia

Ewa Roos, PT, PhD, Professor Head of the Research Unit for Musculoskeletal Function and Physiotherapy, University of Southern Denmark

Hui Xie, PhD, Professor, Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University

Lisa Carlesso, PT, PhD, Assistant Professor, School of Rehabilitation Sciences, McMaster University

Alison Hoens, PT, KB, BC Support Unit

Linda Truong, PhD student, University of British Columbia

Justin Losciale, PhD Student, University of British Columbia

Christina Le, PhD candidate, University of Alberta

Trish Silvester-Lee, ARC Arthritis Patient Advisory Board member

Maxi Miciak PT, PhD, Patient Partner

Andrea Pajkic, Patient Partner


Have questions about this research?

Please feel free to contact us at soar@arthritisresearch.ca.