More than one in three former professional footballers over 40 years old suffer from knee cartilage damage amid concerns active players are risking their long-term health or are unaware of the lasting effects of serious knee injuries.
A FIFPro study among 400 active and 900 former professional footballers indicated that 35 percent of ex-players above 40 are suffering from knee osteoarthritis (a degenerative joint disease). That compares to 8 to 13% of the general population in the same age group.
Footballers are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from knee osteoarthritis with every severe knee injury or knee surgery they had during their career.
“I know some old players who cannot even walk. They are cripples,” Pontus Kamark told FIFPro. The 48-year old Swedish World Cup veteran quit when he was 32 after three cruciate ligament surgeries. “My doctor noticed that my knee cartilage was almost gone. He advised me to stop.”
Only two months earlier Kamark had declined an invitation for Sweden’s 2002 World Cup squad because he did not feel fit enough. “I took the doctor’s advice. I considered my future health and wanted to be active, play ice hockey, tennis and golf for the rest of my life.”
Kamark, who played at IFK Goteborg and Leicester City, is still very active, but he said some of his peers have not been so lucky. Hakan Lindman, who played for Malmo and Anderlecht “has two plastic knees and can barely walk.”