A major focus of Olson's career is understanding the effects of intra-articular injuries in patients and through basic and translational science. The pathogenesis of post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA) after articular fracture including the role of proinflammatory response following fracture, residual articular are areas of interest. He has had the pleasure of serving as President of Orthopaedic Trauma Association. The emphasis of arthritis development sparked an interest in Hip Preservation as a non-trauma practice focus.
Olson's lab developed the first in-vivo model of a murine closed intra-articular fracture that develops PTOA. This work led to observations that identified an early pro-inflammatory response of IL-1 after joint injury, and implicated the importance of inflammation in the pathogenesis of PTOA. This line of investigation resulted in proof-of-concept work demonstrating that human recombinant IL-1Ra prevented PTOA changes in our murine model of intra-articular fracture. In 2015, he and his colleagues were awarded the Kappa Delta award by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Orthopaedic Research Society in honor of their research at Duke related to characterizing and preventing post-traumatic osteoarthritis through biological approaches.