Thickening and increase of area of cartilage have been proposed as two alternative mechanisms of cartilage functional adaptation. The latter has been reported in endurance sportsmen. In weightlifters, extreme strain applied to the articular surfaces can result in other forms of adaptation. The aim of this research is to determine whether cartilage thickness is greater in elite weightlifters than in physically inactive men. Weightlifters (13) and 20 controls [age and body mass index (BMI) matched] underwent knee Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). A single sagittal slice of the knee was taken and cartilage thickness was measured in five and six regions of the medial and lateral femoral condyles, respectively. The analyzed segments represented weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing regions. The tibia cartilage in the weight-bearing area was also measured. The time of training onset and its duration in the weightlifter group were recorded. The cartilage was found to be significantly thicker in weightlifters in most of the analyzed regions. The distribution of cartilage thickness on the medial and lateral femoral condyles was similar in both groups. The duration of training was not associated with cartilage thickness, but the time of training onset correlated inversely with cartilage thickness. It is possible that in high-strain sports, joint cartilage can undergo functional adaptation by thickening. Thus, mechanical loading history could exert a postnatal influence on cartilage morphology. Clin. Anat., 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.”

Although, many physicians warn against jogging, to the best of my knowledge, there is no scientific evidence that running or jogging injures cartilage. Now there is evidence that loading cartilage is beneficial. Certainly, there is still much to be learned about maintaining joint health when it comes to the musculoskeletal care of the aging athlete. Remember, as I have stated many times in my Blogs, cartilage is only part of what makes up the joint. The cartilage joint space as determined by the space between bones is hyaline in nature. Then there is meniscal cartilage that is of a different cellular and chemical makeup. The lining of the joint is synovium and this can become a source of chronic inflammation. Next are the ligaments and capsule so injury and arthritis affect the entire joint and not just what is seen or not seen in an X-ray; arthritis is the result of a bio-immune response and not simply mechanical injury. That’s where stem cells may come to the rescue along with weight loss and strength training. Stem Cells seem to have a place in influencing the well being of the joint at any age; first as an anti-inflammatory, then as an immune modulator. What about cartilage regeneration? I don’t know for sure yet, there is probably an inverse relationship with the potential for cartilage regeneration and age. On the other hand, if a bone marrow aspirate concentrate intervention in an injured or arthritic joint helps maintain the well being of the mature athlete, I am not concerned about the MRI 18 months later.

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