Some of you may know Don Loftus, teacher at Scranton Preparatory School and former high school and college athlete. Don, who suffers from knee pain due to arthritis, recently asked me if I had come across any new information regarding knee arthritis in athletes that might be helpful to him.
Unfortunately, I did recently read a study that did not offer encouraging news for him and other former athletes. A recent long-term study of thousands of Division I college athletes in all sports found significant differences in lifestyle due to arthritic pain when compared with the general population. This study found that these athletes experienced more pain in daily activities and required modification in lifestyle, often rendering them less active at an earlier age, than their contemporaries who did not participate in Division I college athletics. What does this mean? What is arthritis? How does it occur? How do I know if I have it?
All joints suffer from wear and tear over time. Weight-bearing joints such as the hip, knee and ankle, tend to wear out faster than others. Moreover, trauma, from sports, overuse, occupation, or accidents, will expedite this process. This form of arthritis is called, osteoarthritis. It is also known as degenerative arthritis. It is the most common form of arthritis in the knee. It is usually a gradual, slow and progressive process of “wear and tear” to the cartilage in the knee joint which eventually wears down to the bony joint surface. It is most often found in middle-aged and older people and in weight bearing joints.
Your family physician will examine your knee to determine if you have arthritis and rule out other diseases. In more advanced cases you may be referred to an orthopedic surgeon or rheumatologist for further examination and treatment. X-rays will show if the joint space between the bones in the knee is getting narrow from wear and tear arthritis. If rheumatoid arthritis is suspected, blood tests and an MRI may be ordered. The diagnosis will determine if you problem if minor, moderate or severe.
SOURCES: Rothman Institute, Philadelphia, PA and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Next week, read “Knee Arthritis in Athletes – Part II of II”