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The effect of vigorous running and cycling on serum COMP, lubricin, and femoral cartilage thickness: a pilot study

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Our aim was to investigate lubricin, cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP), and femoral cartilage deformation in response to different biomechanical loading of the knee joint (running vs cycling).


Serum lubricin and COMP concentrations (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), and femoral cartilage thickness (suprapatellar transverse ultrasonography) were determined in 11 male runners (age: 40 ± 6 years; weight: 76 ± 8 kg) and 11 male cyclists (35 ± 12 years; 75 ± 5 kg) at baseline, immediately after, and 30 min after vigorous exercise (time trial: 10-km run or 25-km cycle).


At baseline, lubricin (runners: 104.0 ± 19.8 ng/ml; cyclists: 119.1 ± 23.9 ng/ml) and COMP (runners: 804.1 ± 87.5 ng/ml; cyclists: 693.0 ± 84.7 ng/ml) did not significantly differ; however, vigorous exercise was accompanied by an increase in lubricin (cyclists: 39.4 %; p < 0.05; runners: 56.9 %; p < 0.05) and COMP (cyclists: 32.1 %; p < 0.05; runners: 14.2 %; p = 0.14) that returned toward baseline following 30 min of rest (p < 0.05). No between-group differences were observed for baseline cartilage thickness at the intercondyle notch, medial condyle, and lateral condyle, and vigorous exercise did not result in significant change for either group.


In the absence of ultrasonographic knee cartilage deformation, the response of serum lubricin and COMP following acute vigorous exercise indicates an increase in joint lubrication and cartilage metabolism, respectively, which appears largely independent of exercise modality.

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Cartilage oligomeric matrix protein


Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay


Magnetic resonance imaging







VO2max :

Maximum oxygen uptake


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The authors thank all the participants who volunteered for this study.

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Correspondence to Jeanette M. Thom.

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The authors disclose that no funding was received for this work and have no conflicts of interest to declare.

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Communicated by Olivier Seynnes.

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Roberts, H.M., Moore, J.P., Griffith-McGeever, C.L. et al. The effect of vigorous running and cycling on serum COMP, lubricin, and femoral cartilage thickness: a pilot study. Eur J Appl Physiol 116, 1467–1477 (2016).

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