I graduated with a European Master degree in Health and Physical Activity at the University of Foro Italico, IUSM, Rome (ITA) after obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in sport science at the University of Perugia (ITA). My interest is to find out the optimal dose of exercise to promote good joint health in people with osteoarthritis.
Impact of exercise therapy on knee cartilage: systematic reviews and meta-analyses
“Don’t I wear my joint down if I exercise?”
This is the most common question osteoarthritis patients ask to healthcare professionals when advised to start exercising and my challenge is to answer it.
Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease; it affects articular structures such as cartilage, muscle, ligaments, tendons and bones in around 15% of the population with an expected higher incidence in the future. Exercise is considered central in the management of knee osteoarthritis and several systematic reviews and meta-analysis report its benefits in patients with pain and function limitation. Less is known about the potential effect of exercise on joint structure – where only individual studies examined the effect of exercise on knee cartilage and other biomarkers within the joint.
However, there is a need for systematically review the evidence: firstly, to understand to what extent exercise therapy has a protective or detrimental effect on articular cartilage and secondly, to identify knowledge gaps for future studies. This PhD project aims to do exactly this. This new knowledge plus the parallel work carried out by ESR 7, will lead to the development of a tool for the identification of the presence of biomechanical factors that account for the increased risk of developing knee osteoarthritis.
Systematic reviews and meta-analysis in humans and animals studies where cartilage biochemical (COMP, Il-6 etc.) and imaging biomarkers (morphology and composition) are examined will be conducted. The knee joint articular cartilage structure is the outcome of choice to address knee joint health in this project.
Impact and dissemination
If possible evidence-based recommendations for the optimal dose of therapeutic exercise for knee osteoarthritis will be made; alternatively new hypotheses worth evaluating in clinical research will be proposed. Preliminary results will be presented at relevant international conferences and the final results will be presented in four articles to be published in peer reviewed international journals.