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Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 00:32 GMT
Footballers ravaged by early arthritis
Football tackle
Footballers are prone to injury
Professional footballers are 10 times more likely to suffer hip arthritis later in life, according to a researcher.

Often former players were suffering problems in their 30s and 40s - far earlier than non-footballers.

And this was despite them not reporting any serious hip injuries in their career, probably simply as a result of wear and tear during their careers.

The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, comes on top of evidence that repeated heading of the football may increase the risk of dementia.

The study was carried out by researchers at the Royal Bolton Hospital, who quizzed all 92 football league and Premiership managers about the prevalence of arthritis.

Hip ops

In total 68 of these responded, and nine of them said they had hip arthritis - six of them had eight hip replacement operations between them.

When this was compared to the rate of arthritis in similarly-aged men, who were not professional footballers, just two out of 138 had the problem.

This added up to a ten-fold increase in risk for footballers.

Orthopaedic Surgeon Mr Gordon Shepard, who co-authored the study, told BBC News Online: "We had noticed there seemed to be an awful lot of ex-footballers in their 40s and 50s coming to us with hip problems.

"What is interesting about the hip is that, unlike the knee or ankle, players don't often have injuries to their hip - so it is more likely to be the result of wear and tear over the whole career."

Groin strain

He said one explanation for hip problems later in life, however, was undiagnosed hip injury.

"Some of these injuries may be manifesting themselves as groin strains, so rather than rushing players back after groin strains, perhaps they should have a longer break."

A spokesman for the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), told BBC News Online the organisation would like to see some medical problems suffered by ex-footballers categorised as "industrial illnesses".

He said: "We have an accident fund which pays for operations and medical treatment needed by former players - last year it paid out in the region of 750,000, and this year it is closer to 1m."


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24 Jan 03 | England
21 Sep 98 | Health
12 Oct 98 | Football
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