This study aims to investigate the earliest alterations of bone and cartilage tissues as a result of different exercise protocols in the knee joint of Wistar rats. We hypothesize that pretraining to a continuous intense running protocol would protect the animals from cartilage degeneration. Three groups of animals were used: (i) an adaptive (pretraining) running group that ran for 8 weeks with gradually increasing velocity and time of running followed by a constant running program (6 weeks of 1.12 km/hour running per day); (ii) a non‐adaptive running (constant running) group that initially rested for 8 weeks followed by 6 weeks of constant running; and (iii) a non‐running (control) group. At weeks 8, 14, and 20 bone and cartilage were analyzed. Both running groups developed mild symptoms of cartilage irregularities, such as chondrocyte hypertrophy and cell clustering in different cartilage zones, in particular after the adaptive running protocol. As a result of physical training in the adaptive running exercise a dynamic response of bone was detected at week 8, where bone growth was enhanced. Conversely, the thickness of epiphyseal trabecular and subchondral bone (at week 14) was reduced due to the constant running in the period between 8 and 14 weeks. Finally, the intermediate differences between the two running groups disappeared after both groups had a resting period (from 14 to 20 weeks). The adaptive running group showed an increase in aggrecan gene expression and reduction of MMP2 expression after the initial 8 weeks running. Thus, the running exercise models in this study showed mild bone and cartilage/chondrocyte alterations that can be considered as early‐stage osteoarthritis. The pretraining adaptive protocol before constant intense running did not protect from mild cartilage degeneration.
- animal models
- bone modeling and remodeling