New study aims to reduce arthritis risk in retired international rugby players

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Researchers at the University of Oxford are working with retired international rugby players to find out more about the long-term consequences of the sport on players’ health.

The study is being led by the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis, which aims to reduce the impact of sports injuries by examining the relationship between a range of sports and the subsequent risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Researchers involved in the project are collaborating with the Rugby Football Union and the Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) to assess how playing and training as a rugby player might impact on a player’s health in the longer term.

The study, which was was piloted in 2014 with Oxford and Cambridge Rugby Blues, will be the first to extensively examine the consequences of playing rugby at both amateur and professional levels in England. This has been identified as a priority research area by both the Rugby Football Union and world rugby.

Lead researcher Madi Davies, from the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, explained: “There are an increasing number of studies looking at match and training injuries across all levels of the game, but there is little research exploring the long-term positive and negative effects of playing the sport.

“As part of the wider aims of the centre, this study is designed to help us understand which injuries lead to long-term pain and disability, including osteoarthritis.