Extra Pounds Equate to Knee Damage

Thursday, October 8, 2009
Being overweight greatly increases the risk of suffering torn knee cartilage, according to a University of Utah School of Medicine study.

Overweight people are at least three times more likely to tear their meniscus -- the cartilage that bears much of the load on the knee joint -- than people of normal weight. The most obese men and women are 15 and 25 times more likely, respectively, to tear the cartilage.

The study, which appears in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, looked at 515 people who had meniscal surgery in Utah between 1996 and 2000, comparing them with 9,944 other residents of the state.

The extra weight being carried by many Americans is responsible for up to 450,000 of the 850,000 operations for meniscus tears each year, the study said. Each operation costs an average of $3,000, noted study lead author Dr. Kurt T. Hegmann, research associate professor of family and preventive medicine.

"There’s a potential savings of $1.3 billion in the costs associated with meniscus tears in overweight and obese people," Hegmann said in a prepared statement.

But he and his colleagues noted that there’s a simple solution to this problem.

"A population-based weight management program could decrease future burden on orthopedic and medical-care systems due to meniscal surgeries and treatment of other obesity-related conditions," the authors wrote.

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