Researchers in the Department for Health are part of a new £3m research centre to be launched on Monday (June 10) by Arthritis Research UK with the aim of reducing the impact of sports injuries incurred by elite and recreational sports players and to understand why some sport and exercise injuries develop into debilitating osteoarthritis in later life.
A research team, which is part of the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis, aims to develop better injury treatments and screening tools which can predict an individual's risk of developing osteoarthritis as a result of a sports injury.
Dr James Bilzon, who is leading the Bath arm of the seven-site centre, explained: "Regular exercise is vital to keep your joints healthy and the long-term benefits of exercise far outweigh the risk of injury.
"Our centre aims to keep people of all sporting abilities active and injury-free by developing definitive, evidence-based advice and information to minimise the consequence of injury and recommend effective lifestyle interventions and treatments to reduce long-term damage.
"This is the first time in Europe that specialists in sports medicine and osteoarthritis are combining their expertise to understand why some sports injuries will go on to develop into osteoarthritis, and whether we can prevent or slow down degeneration in joints."
An injury to the joint is one of the main risk factors for osteoarthritis, along with ageing and obesity. Approximately eight million people in the UK are affected by osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of joint disease.
In Bath researchers will develop a series of clinical trials aimed at testing dietary and nutritional interventions in athletes and military personnel after an injury, and exercise interventions to prevent and manage injury.
Dr Bilzon and colleagues will be working with the Rugby Football Union's injured players' foundation to work with players whose careers have ended through injury and are at risk of osteoarthritis.
"Through work we've done in other conditions, we know we can manage chronic low grade inflammation through diet and physical interventions so we'll be looking at testing the effects of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids in trials." he explained.
"We also want to find out if we can manage athletes, following an injury, by working with them to manage a healthy lifestyle. It's important that they maintain their healthy body composition and keep their weight down to reduce any post-injury symptoms."
Professor Alan Silman, medical director of charity Arthritis Research UK which is funding the centre over five years, said: "The health benefits of being active cannot be underestimated, but as we work hard to encourage people to adopt a more active lifestyle, we need to ensure they're doing everything they can to prevent future problems. We think it's very important that research in this area involves the general population as well as professional sports players, as osteoarthritis can affect anyone."
The Arthritis Research UK Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis is a consortium of seven universities led by Nottingham University Hospitals and the Universities of Nottingham and Oxford, and involving the Universities of Southampton, Bath, Loughborough, Leeds and University College London.
For more information about looking after your joints when exercising visit Arthritis Research UK. If you are interested in taking part in the research contact centre administrators: Joanne Bartram or Lis Alhstrom.