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Running decreases knee intra-articular cytokine and cartilage oligomeric matrix concentrations: a pilot study

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European Journal of Applied Physiology Aims and scope Submit manuscript



Regular exercise protects against degenerative joint disorders, yet the mechanisms that underlie these benefits are poorly understood. Chronic, low-grade inflammation is widely implicated in the onset and progression of degenerative joint disease.


To examine the effect of running on knee intra-articular and circulating markers of inflammation and cartilage turnover in healthy men and women.


Six recreational runners completed a running (30 min) and control (unloaded for 30 min) session in a counterbalanced order. Synovial fluid (SF) and serum samples were taken before and after each session. Cytokine concentration was measured in SF and serum using a multiplexed cytokine magnetic bead array. Ground reaction forces were measured during the run.


There were no changes in serum or SF cytokine concentration in the control condition. The cytokine GM-CSF decreased from 10.7 ± 9.8 to 6.2 ± 5.9 pg/ml pre- to post-run (p = 0.03). IL-15 showed a trend for decreasing concentration pre- (6.7 ± 7.5 pg/ml) to post-run (4.3 ± 2.7 pg/ml) (p = 0.06). Changes in IL-15 concentration negatively correlated with the mean number of foot strikes during the run (r 2 = 0.67; p = 0.047). The control condition induced a decrease in serum COMP and an increase in SF COMP, while conversely the run induced an increase in serum COMP and a decrease in SF COMP. Changes in serum and SF COMP pre- to post-intervention were inversely correlated (r 2 = 0.47; p = 0.01).


Running appears to decrease knee intra-articular pro-inflammatory cytokine concentration and facilitates the movement of COMP from the joint space to the serum.

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Analysis of variance


Cartilage oligomeric matrix protein


Granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor


Ground reaction force


Interferon alpha-2










Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist


Interleukin-1 beta


Interleukin-1 alpha








Interluekin-12 subunit beta


Interferon-gamma-inducible protein-10


Monocyte chemoattractant protein-1


Macrophage inflammatory protein-1 alpha


Macrophage inflammatory protein-1 beta




Rheumatoid arthritis


Synovial fluid


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We would like to thank our research participants for their time and effort.

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Correspondence to Robert D. Hyldahl.

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Communicated by Olivier Seynnes.

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Hyldahl, R.D., Evans, A., Kwon, S. et al. Running decreases knee intra-articular cytokine and cartilage oligomeric matrix concentrations: a pilot study. Eur J Appl Physiol 116, 2305–2314 (2016).

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