Knee osteoarthritis patients better walk & get-off the golf cart

New research from the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab and Northwestern Medicine has found, for the first time, that walking the course provides significantly higher health benefits and is not associated with increased pain, cartilage breakdown or inflammation.

This study is the first comparing the health benefits of walking the golf course versus using a cart, as well as the first to use a blood-based biomarker analysis in knee osteoarthritis during a prolonged sporting event. The findings will be presented April 28 at the Osteoarthritis Research Society International Annual Meeting in Liverpool, England.

The health benefits of golf have decreased as the number of people who ride the course has increased over the past 20 years. In the late 1980s, 45 percent of all rounds of golf were played with a golf cart. By 2006, 69 percent of rounds were played with a cart. During this same time period, activity has decreased among Americans, while obesity has increased.

“Individuals with knee osteoarthritis are often concerned about pain and may be more likely to use a golf cart,” said lead study author Dr. Prakash Jayabalan, a physician scientist at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“However, through sophisticated blood-based biomarker analysis, this study has shown that golfers with knee osteoarthritis do not need to be concerned about worsening their disease through walking the course. In fact, walking provides the best health benefit,” Jayabalan said.