About 30% of athletes had hip or knee arthritis, compared to 19% who weren't athletes.
The study, published December 8 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, included more than 700 retired Swedish athletes aged 50 to 93 who had played professional and Olympic level sports and nearly 1,400 men of the same age who exercised a little or not at all.
The retired athletes included men who played high-contact sports such as soccer and hockey, and others from non-contact sports like running, swimming and cycling.
Young athletes need not worry
The researchers found the risk of hip or knee arthritis was 85% higher in elite athletes. And in athletes who had joint surgery, the risk more than doubled.
Greater risk was seen in high contact sports, with a doubled risk in soccer and handball (also known as team handball) players and a tripled risk in ice hockey players.
If you're a weekend warrior or a young athlete, you may not have to worry about the results from the study, noted co-author Dr Magnus Tveit at Lund University in Sweden.
"But if you're an overweight, middle-aged runner who wants to run at an intense level, there are better ways of staying in shape without risking a knee injury," he wrote in an email to Reuters Health.
(Reuters Health, December 2011)
Young athletesCauses of knee pain