Media Release: 17 May 2013
Escalating rates of joint replacements could be slashed by tackling obesity and preventing sports injuries, according to Arthritis Australia and leading osteoarthritis experts.
“We know that half of all knee replacements for osteoarthritis could be prevented by eliminating obesity and one in five by preventing knee injuries,” said Ainslie Cahill, CEO of Arthritis Australia, in response to new data on osteoarthritis released by the AIHW today.
“Addressing these two risk factors could cut the cost of knee replacements alone by nearly $500 million a year,” Ms Cahill said.
“The jump in knee replacement rates, which are up 56% in the last decade, is just the start of exponential growth in these procedures as the impact of our escalating obesity levels begins to hit home,’ she said.
Maintaining a healthy weight can also help to prevent osteoarthritis getting worse, according to osteoarthritis expert, Professor David Hunter.
“Every kilogram of excess weight you carry puts an extra load of four kilograms on your knee joint. Losing weight can really reduce the severity and pain of osteoarthritis and help to avoid the need for costly and traumatic joint replacement surgery,” Professor Hunter said.
To help people living with osteoarthritis, Arthritis Australia has established an easy-to-use, evidence based website, MyJointPain.org.au. “This website gives people living with osteoarthritis access to a credible resource that will help them manage their condition and improve their mobility and quality of life,” Professor Hunter said.
Broader measures to tackle obesity are also needed to reduce the prevalence and severity of osteoarthritis, according to Professor Hunter. “We need a range of programs to help people eat more healthily and be more active, and we also need to take a hard line on issues such as improving food labelling and restricting advertising of unhealthy food to children.
“In addition, we need to address increasing numbers of sports injuries,” he said.
“We know that 7 in 10 people who have a knee injury will develop osteoarthritis in the damaged joint 10-15 years later.
“Yet international experience shows that sports injury prevention programs, based on simple neuromuscular training exercises, can reduce these injuries by 60%.
“A program to target all frequent sports participants would cost just $28 million to set up and less than $2 million a year to maintain, but would save around $200 million a year in knee replacement costs alone.
“It’s simple and it makes sense,” Professor Hunter said.