Hip and Knee Arthritis in Dairy Farmers

  • May, John J.;
  • Bauer, M.;
  • Dalal, R.;
  • Grof, G.;
  • Keene, Carol;
  • Ries, M.

Previous studies from Sweden and England showed increased rates of osteoarthritis of the hip in farmers. This study was done to compare the rate of arthritis of the knee and hip in dairy farmers to non-farmers. We also sought specific risk factors in dairy farming.

We performed a standardized physical examination and X-rays of hips and knees in 61 randomly sampled dairy farmers and 31 rural non-farmers. Detailed work history described specific work practices. Analysis was by t-test and chi square.

Sixty-one farmers (58.7ñ2.9 years) averaged 40.4ñ9.6 years of dairy farming. Thirty-one controls averaged 60.8ñ3.0 years. Farmers had X-ray changes of the hip in 14 (23%), of the knee in 19 (31%); and, in controls, 2 (7%) and 2 (7%) respectively. These were bilateral in 57% and 21% respectively in farmers and 50% and 0% of controls. Symptomatic and radiographic arthritis was found in 14.8% (hip) and 22.9% (knee) of farmers. Rates were 3.5% (hip) and 7% (knee) in controls. The likelihood of arthritis in farmers did not relate to any specific work practice but did relate to: years of milking, number of cows milked, herd size and acres. Arthritis was also related to body weight at age 20 and 40.

Arthritis is more common in dairy farmers than non-farm controls. Disease of the knee is more frequent and more radiographically severe than hip. Occurrence relates to body weight and indicators of intensity/duration of dairy farm work.

This research abstract was extracted from a portion of the proceedings of "Agricultural Safety and Health: Detection, Prevention and Intervention," a conference presented by the Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Health, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

J.J. May, C. Keene, M. Bauer, R. Dalal, G. Grof and M. Ries, Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital and New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health, Cooperstown, NY.

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