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Loughborough part of new national centre to reduce sports injuries’ risk

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Loughborough University is part of a new £3m Arthritis Research UK research centre that aims to reduce the impact of sports injuries incurred by elite and recreational sports players and understand why some sport and exercise injuries develop into debilitating osteoarthritis in later life.

Research teams in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (SSEHS) aim 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.

Professor of Musculoskeletal Biology Mark Lewis is leading the Loughborough arm of the seven-site centre. He said:

“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 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.”

In Loughborough researchers will:

  • Experiment with jump training to investigate whether it can influence ligament stiffness and thus protect potentially vulnerable joints
  • Use specially engineered muscle cells to investigate new treatment pathways for osteoarthritis
  • Grow and “exercise” joint cells in the laboratory

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.

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.

The research centre is officially launched on Monday (10 June), with research at Loughborough due to get underway this autumn.

For more information about looking after your joints when exercising visit www.arthritisresearchuk.org. If you are interested in taking part in the research contact centre administrators: joanne.bartram@nuh.nhs.uk or lis.alhstrom@ndorms.ox.ac.uk

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