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Reading FC FPA assist in national medical study

Reading FC FPA assist in national medical study David Woolford, Board Member of Reading F.C. Former Player’s Association, has been working alongside Nottingham University and assisting with their study into Osteoarthritis in retired professional footballers.

The study has been endorsed by former England legend and current director of football development in England, Sir Trevor Brooking

The aims of the research study are to establish how common knee pain and knee osteoarthritis (OA) is in a population of retired professional footballers and to identify the risk factors that are implicated. The risk factors for OA are well known and include genetics, joint alignment, age, obesity, gender (being female) and ethnicity as well external factors such as injury, surgery, and joint loading.

However far from being a disease of only the elderly, it has become increasingly common in younger people too. In fact, more young people now suffer with OA. Elite athletes such as professional footballers are particularly vulnerable to sports related health risks as they are exposed to high intensity activities over a prolonged training period as a part their jobs.

The project is being managed in two stages of research. The first involves a questionnaire enquiry on life as a retired professional footballer ranging from football career details, medical and surgical history and current quality of life. The second stage that is currently active involves knee radiographs (x-rays) of both the left and right knees in ex professional footballers and their comparison group, age matched men from the Nottinghamshire community. The sample size needed for the comparison study is 500 retired professional footballers and 500 men from the general population.

The research study being undertaken at the University of Nottingham is successfully underway and has to date received 1120 questionnaires from retired professional footballers. This represents an overall 26% response rate. This excellent response has been possible due to the support, encouragement and endorsement from various organisations and interested parties such as Reading Football Club. Specifically, Reading FC have posted almost 150 questionnaires to their eligible ex-professional footballers in June and July 2015.

The team have also worked with 21 other professional football clubs and former player associations across the country as well as the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) in sending out almost 5000 questionnaires. To date, 794 ex-footballers have given their consent to have their knees x-rayed and a further 827 have indicated an interest in participating in further research projects on the health and well-being of ex-professional footballers. The study team envisage completing the second stage of the project within a 6 month time with the results being analysed and published in the spring of 2016. This research study is funded and supported by Arthritis Research UK, the Federation International de Football Association (FIFA), the Professional Football Association (PFA), the Football Association (FA) and SPIRE Healthcare. The research team is headed by Professor Michael Doherty at the University of Nottingham.

If you or a fellow former footballer who is over the age of 40 years would like to participate or would like to know more about the research, please get in touch with the study lead Dr Gwen Fernandes on (0115)823-1679 or email or the doctoral researcher Mr Sanjay Parekh on (0115)823-1759 or email

22 September 2015

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