Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type





College of Natural and Health Sciences

Primary Advisor

Dr. Aimee Franklin


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a prevalent joint disease that results from the degradation of articular cartilage, leading to inflammation, pain, and eventual joint failure. At one time, it was thought that OA was only the result of the natural decline experienced in old age; however, various risk factors have now been identified that may contribute to an increased risk for developing OA. Risk factors may include joint loading, altered biomechanics, obesity, and joint injury, to which athletes are exposed at a high rate. NFL athletes are one group of athletes that have continued to show a high prevalence of arthritis in retirement, based on those risk factors. There is no current treatment outside of anti-inflammatory medications and joint replacements, both of which do not always lead to the most favorable outcomes. A high-fat, low carbohydrate diet, called the ketogenic diet, may be able to prevent the onset of OA or treat it once it has developed. The ketogenic diet produces ketone bodies which have been shown to decrease inflammation and reactive oxygen species, two leading factors of OA development or potentiation. While research is not conclusive on how this works, various studies have supported its claim. The following extended literature review aims to determine if current research supports using the ketogenic diet in preventing or treating OA in NFL athletes.