Playing professional football can be bad for health

October 02, 2000

Long term impact of playing professional football in the United Kingdom 2000; 34:332-7

Professional footballers are prone to ill health and disability in later life, finds research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Joint disease was particularly common, the study showed.

Almost 300 former professional footballers were surveyed. Mostly in their mid-50s, during their active career almost two thirds had at some time been Premier League players (formerly Division 1), with around 450 competitive games among them.

Almost one in two of the former players had the chronic joint disease osteoarthritis, with the knee being the most commonly affected site. The average age at diagnosis was 40. Eighty three of the ex footballers had osteoarthritis in two or more joints, and among the 43 registered disabled, three quarters had osteoarthritis. Anxiety and depression were also more common among those with this type of joint disease, possibly as a result of pain and impaired mobility. Some of the former players said that pain had forced them to give up their career

Since retiring from professional football, just under a third of the respondents reported having surgery at least once. Two thirds of these operations had been for knee surgery, with almost one in five procedures being for joint replacement. Fifteen of the former players had had hip surgery; in 12 this was for joint replacements. Twenty four respondents were awaiting surgery. Four out of 10 former players had needed non-surgical treatment.

Mr Andy Turner, Psychosocial Research Centre, Coventry University.

BMJ Specialty Journals

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