This week, we explore the impact of glucosamine supplementation on cartilage health in athletes.
The nature of training and competition causes large amounts of repetitive mechanical loading on the joint which may lead to degradation (breakdown) and function loss of cartilage over time.
Nutrition supplements such as collagen, chondroitin and glucosamine have been used in the treatment of sports-related connective tissue based injuries: cartilage, tendon, ligament, bone.
With regards to today’s topic; glucosamine contributes to the maintenance of elasticity, flexibility and strength of cartilage and connective tissues. Of which, clinical studies have shown that supplementation has structure modifying and symptom-relieving effects in osteoarthritis patients.
Similar to the muscle, strengthening of connective tissue and cartilage occurs when synthesis (production) exceeds degradation.
Glucosamine supplementation has the ability to enhance synthesis and suppress degradation of Type II collagen (a structural component of cartilage), and therefore ‘chondroprotective.
Tsuruta et al (2019) put this to the test and investigated the impact of supplementing with 2g glucosamine hydrochloride/day for 4 months in healthy football (soccer) players without joint disorders.
The players training schedule consisted of 4 x 2 hour sessions a week with a match on the weekend – therefore, substantial joint impact and torsional loading will be experienced. Out of the 41 players enrolled in the study, half were provided a supplement where the remainder consumed a placebo.
Upon completion of the 16 week study, the researchers re-examined certain biomarkers of cartilage health – interestingly, they found that glucosamine supplementation was superior to placebo in reducing degradation, but had no significant effect with increasing synthesis of type II collagen.
Based on these results, it can be said that 2g glucosamine supplementation/day is chondroprotective in young athletes without joint disorders – not necessarily through improving cartilage formation, but by reducing its breakdown.
Therefore, if you’re an athlete who is experiencing joint related issues and is mindful of joint health; this may be an avenue worth exploring.
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