It’s no secret that an active lifestyle and regular exercise are essential to good health. Some sports can be very demanding on your hips and knees, and, over time, can lead to an accelerated deterioration in joint health. These sports are generally those which involve high impact or repetitive movements where the knees have to absorb shock or make abrupt rotational movements. People with a family history of osteoarthritis, previous leg injuries or those suffering from osteoarthritis should avoid these types of sport. If you are unable to stop practicing these sports, we strongly recommend that you take precautions such as strengthening the muscles around your joints, always doing a long and adequate warm-up and developing your coordination as much as possible before practicing your sport.
Here are four sports that are hard on your hips and knees, and how you can minimize their impact on your joints:

1 – Downhill skiing
Falls are one of the most common causes of knee injuries. Downhill skiing is one of the sports where falls are frequent, especially when the slopes are icy or have bumps. Even when you don’t fall, skiing puts a lot of pressure on your joints, damaging your joints over time, especially if your physical preparation leaves something to be desired. Mogul skiers put even more pressure on their knees, which absorb the shock of every bump and jump.
If you want to keep skiing, pay attention to your technique, bend your knees (especially on mogul runs), keep the muscles around your knees activated to help absorb shock, and avoid dangerous jumps.

2 – Basketball
Basketball is a fast-paced sport with sudden stops, pivots, and jumps. The constant shocks and rotations put a lot of stress on your knees, which absorb all the weight of your body. The fast pace of the sport can also lead to hip pain. Over time, people who regularly play high-intensity basketball have a high risk of developing osteoarthritis. Be aware of your long-term health when preparing for a game.

3 – Tennis
Tennis players can experience upper/lower body imbalances due to repetitive upper body movements. Short periods of running with sudden stops put a lot of pressure on the knees, while the hips are loaded with the force of racket strokes.
The best way to prevent joint injuries is to do long, deep warm-ups, avoid sudden stops when running, slow down before stopping, and stop with bent knees to put more pressure on the muscles around the knee. You can also play doubles tennis, where the distances to be run are shorter, so stopping is less damaging to your knees.

4 – Plyometric exercises and weight training
Plyometric exercises include all exercises that require lots of jumps and short but intense bursts of effort (e.g. burpees, lunges, squat jumps). During landing, the knees absorb the force of the jump, which is very taxing on the weight-bearing joints.
Leg exercises are particularly difficult on the hips, as balance and technique are harder to maintain. Make sure you start your workout with light weights before moving on to heavier ones, and always take time at the end to stretch properly.

How can I practise these sports safely?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to guarantee that the sport won’t cause you long-term injury, especially if you’re playing at a competitive level. That said, consulting your doctor or a professional trainer before taking up these sports will make you more aware of the possible risks to your body and the safety measures to adopt. These include always including a warm-up before you exercise, and stopping immediately if you feel any sharp pain.
Aim for a balance in your exercise routine, combining impact activities (skiing and running) with non-impact activities (cycling and swimming).

If you suffer from or are at risk of osteoarthritis, there are several low-impact activities you can enjoy with minimal risk of injury: elliptical training, cross-country skiing, cycling and swimming. When it comes to long-term health, it’s never all black and white. You need to stay active to maintain healthy bones and joints, but you also need to be aware of the types of movement that can potentially do more harm than good. Clinique Duval is the Canadian reference for private hip and knee joint replacement.

*This article is intended for educational purposes only and is not a comprehensive resource on the subject. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should consult your physician or other healthcare professional before beginning any training program to determine what is best for you.