The effect of a six-month training program followed by a marathon run on knee joint cartilage volume and thickness in marathon beginners

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of a 6-month period of intensive running followed by the participation at a marathon run on cartilage volume and thickness in knees of marathon beginners.

Methods

Ten asymptomatic marathon beginners underwent a supervised 6-month training program, which was finalized by the participation at a marathon run. Three-dimensional quantitative magnetic resonance imaging was performed before the training program (baseline measurements) and 1 day after the marathon (follow-up measurements). Cartilage volume and thickness of the medial and lateral femur, medial and lateral tibia, and patella were measured using semiautomated cartilage segmentation and three dimensional data postprocessing.

Results

Significant differences between baseline and follow-up measurements were observed at the lateral femur, where cartilage volume and thickness decreased by a mean of 3.2 ± 3.0 % (p = 0.012) and 1.7 ± 1.6 % (p = 0.010), respectively. No significant changes in cartilage volume and thickness were observed at the medial and lateral tibia, the medial femur, and the patella.

Conclusion

Significant cartilage loss was observed at the lateral femur; however, the measured values are comparable to previously reported precision errors for quantitative cartilage measurement and thus most likely not of clinical relevance. High-impact forces during long-distance running are well tolerated even in marathon beginners and do not lead to clinical relevant cartilage loss.

Level of evidence

IV.

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Correspondence to Matthias J. Feucht.

Additional information

Stefan Hinterwimmer and Matthias J. Feucht have contributed equally to this work and share first authorship.

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Hinterwimmer, S., Feucht, M.J., Steinbrech, C. et al. The effect of a six-month training program followed by a marathon run on knee joint cartilage volume and thickness in marathon beginners. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 22, 1353–1359 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00167-013-2686-6

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Keywords

  • Marathon run
  • Long-distance running
  • Quantitative magnetic resonance imaging
  • Osteoarthritis