Context

Lower extremity osteoarthritis (OA) is associated with a 25% greater risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared to those without OA. The prevalence of traumatic joint injuries among National Football League (NFL) players exposes these athletes to an elevated risk for osteoarthritis (OA) and potentially a greater risk of cardiovascular risk factors (CRF) and CVD.

Objective

To examine the association between a history of lower extremity joint injury, lower extremity OA, and the prevalence of CRFs and CVD among former NFL athletes.

Design

Cross Sectional Study

Patients or Other Participants

Former NFL players completed a health questionnaire. A sub-sample of 1,738 former players reported lifetime medical diagnoses including CVD or CRFs.

Main Outcome Measure(s)

Crude and adjusted prevalence ratios (PR) characterized the association between CVD or CRF with injury and/or OA diagnosis among athletes who reported 1) no history of lower extremity joint injury or surgery and no diagnosed OA, 2) athletes with a history of lower extremity joint injury or surgery and no OA diagnosed OA, and 3) athletes with a history of lower extremity joint injury or surgery and diagnosed OA.

Results

Neither history of lower extremity joint injury (PRadj=1.34, CI95=0.86, 2.07) nor history of lower extremity joint injury and diagnosed OA (PRadj=1.41, CI95=0.89, 2.25) were significantly associated with CVD. However, CRFs were 30% and 53% more prevalent in former players with lower extremity joint injury and no diagnosed OA (PRadj=1.30, CI95=1.12, 1.50) and those with lower extremity joint and diagnosed OA (PRadj=1.53, CI95=1.31, 1.78) when compared to athletes with no history of either condition.

Conclusions

The prevalence of CRFs was highest among former NFL athletes with a history of lower extremity joint injury and diagnosed OA. These findings provide insight regarding the potential pathways to chronic diseases that may be initiated by joint injury early in life.

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