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BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2021 May 21;7(2):e000997. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2020-000997. eCollection 2021.
OBJECTIVES: To determine and compare the health status of hip joints of individuals undertaking various lengths of long-distance running and of those who are not running.
METHODS: Fifty-two asymptomatic volunteers underwent bilateral hip 3.0 Tesla MRI: (1) 8 inactive non-runners; (2) 28 moderately active runners (average half a marathon (21 km)/week) and (3) 16 highly active runners (≥ marathon (42 km)/week). Two musculoskeletal radiologists reported the hip MRI findings using validated scoring systems. Study participants completed a Hip disability and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (HOOS) questionnaire to indicate their perceived hip function.
RESULTS: The MRI findings show that there were no significant differences among inactive non-runners, moderately active runners and highly active runners in the amount of labral abnormalities (p=0.327), articular cartilage lesions (p=0.270), tendon abnormalities (p=0.141), ligament abnormalities (p=0.519). Bone marrow oedema was significantly more common in moderately active runners than in non-runners and highly active runners (p=0.025), while small subchondral cysts were more common in runners than in non-runners (p=0.017), but these were minor/of small size, asymptomatic and did not indicate specific exercise-related strain. Articular cartilage lesions and bone marrow oedema were not found in highly active runners. HOOS scores indicate no hip symptoms or functional problems among the three groups.
CONCLUSION: The imaging findings were not significantly different among inactive non-runners, moderately active runners and highly active runners, in most hip structures, suggesting that long-distance running may not add further damage to the hip joints.