Military Members Face Raised Risk of Osteoarthritis: Study

Repetitive joint movements may play a role, researchers suggest

FRIDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. military personnel are at significantly increased risk of developing osteoarthritis compared to civilians, a new study has found.

The physical demands of military service may play a role in the increased prevalence of the painful joint disease, the researchers suggested in the report, published online June 29 in Arthritis & Rheumatism.

"Surprisingly, little is known about the osteoarthritis incidence in younger physically active populations," Kenneth Cameron, director of orthopedic research at Keller Army Hospital in West Point, N.Y., noted in a journal news release. "The active duty U.S. military population provides an excellent opportunity to examine the incidence of osteoarthritis in a young and physically active population that is regularly exposed to occupational activities with repetitive joint movements."

In conducting the study, the investigators identified 108,266 U.S. service members diagnosed with osteoarthritis between 1999 and 2008. Junior and senior enlisted service members and those serving in the Army had the highest incidence rates for osteoarthritis. The researchers noted that these groups engage in regular knee and hip bending, and also are required to meet medium-to-very-heavy physical demands on a regular basis, which may contribute to their higher prevalence of osteoarthritis.

The study also revealed that black service members were 15 percent more likely to be diagnosed with osteoarthritis rates than white military personnel and 26 percent more likely than other racial groups.

Women in the military also had a 20 percent higher osteoarthritis incidence rate than men. In addition, the prevalence of osteoarthritis among service members who were 40 years of age or older was 19 times higher than for those aged 20 years or younger, the report indicated.

"Further research is needed to determine the incidence of post-traumatic osteoarthritis and to explore the risk factors associated with this condition among military personnel," concluded Cameron.

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, affects nearly 27 million American adults over the age of 25, according to the study.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation provides more information on osteoarthritis.

Mary Elizabeth Dallas SOURCE: Arthritis & Rheumatism, news release, June 29, 2011

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