Thankfully more and more people are getting off their rumps and playing sports. Those who are wise to the risk of injuries will choose their sport wisely. Those who throw caution into the wind will likely regret the carelessness when their joints start to bark with the pains of arthritis. In a recent comment on the Chronic Pain site, Diane (Bolin) Kelley, an Olympic gymnast in 1968, writes, “I think I am in a bad place right now. Was the gymnastics worth it? I’ve been wondering this for a very long time now”.
Many athletes might eventually wonder the same thing years later when all those injuries catch-up and bite life in the butt. By virtue of the physicality and velocity, some sports are truly more likely to result in arthritis. Other sports are safer and less likely to result in painful arthritis years later. Knowing which sport is more or least likely to result in arthritis can help you make a wise decision for you or your child.
MOST LIKELY TO RESULT IN ARTHRITIootball: Football is known to cause many different types of injuries from head to toe. From 1990 to 2007, over 5 million children were treated in emergency rooms due to football-related injuries. In turn, ex-football players can be plagued with arthritis in the spine, the knees, the ankles, the wrists, and the shoulders, just to name a few common ailments. Do you want this to happen to your child?
Soccer: Although not a full-contact sport like its American counterpart, soccer is well known to cause knee injuries especially in women. The rate of knee ligament injuries, especially the anterior cruciate ligament, among “women warrior” soccer players is alarmingly high. One competitive soccer player, Amy Steadman, had five surgeries on her right knee by the age of 20. She is just one of many soccer players destine to have knee arthritis.
Gymnastics: Gymnast Diane Bolin Kelley is not the only one wondering if gymnastics is worth it. The human body can only withstand a certain amount of contorting, twisting and bending before the skeletal system, especially an immature skeletal system, fails and an injury results. For this reason, gymnastics has one of the highest injury rates of all sports including hockey. These extreme postures expected from a young gymnast can make life miserable years after the fun and glory are gone.
Basketball: For a “non-contact” sport, the contact of the street games is now being seen at all levels of competition. This increased level of physicality causes an increased risk of injury. Sprained ankles are the most common injuries because of the amount of jumping and air-born antics. Sprained knees are common also. In fact, female college basketball players are about six times more likely to suffer a tear of the knee’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) than men are, according to a study of 11,780 high school and college players. As many ex-players can tell you, the chronic pain from arthritis years after leaving the basketball court can interfere with living.
Others: Of course other sports like skiing, snowboarding, and skateboarding are also high risk activities that can result in injury and post-traumatic arthritis, but the above sports are the most common and most dangerous sports that Americans love.
LEAST LIKELY TO RESULT IN ARTHRITIunning: Believe it or not, the constant pounding from running mile after mile does not increase the risk of arthritis. This weight bearing activity does not involve physical contact, quick turns, or jumping; therefore, the risk of injury is fairly low compared to other sports. Some say that this activity stimulates the joint health in a way that might actually help to prevent arthritis.
Swimming: This water-based sport is safe enough to be considered therapeutic for many. Because water virtually eliminates the effects of gravity, even those with sensitive spine injuries can benefit from swimming. The type of stroke and level of competition will influence the rate of injury. For example, a highly competitive free-style swimmer will be more likely to have a shoulder injury than the average swimmer. All in all swimming does not usually result in arthritis; swimming actually helps those with arthritis.
Cycling: Besides the high-speed crashes on the professional circuit, cycling is a relatively safe sport. Like swimming, cycling is often used in the rehabilitation setting. The constant movement of the knees and hips might actually help to stimulate the production of joint synovial fluid that act as a lubricant. Thus, this cycling actually helps many with mild cases of knee and/or hip arthritis.
Others: Many other sports are least likely to result in arthritis like doubles tennis and maybe even golf. The commonality between all of these relatively safe sports is that you will see people in their 80’s still enjoying the sport as a life-long sport.
When it comes to choosing a sport, this decision could affect the rest of your life. Choosing a sport you love now may have some consequences later. And you may even regret the decision as you get older while the memories of fun and glory fade. Or you may be able to participate in the sport for the rest of your life. The likelihood of whether or not a sport will lead to arthritis is not absolutely set in stone. The likelihood is just something to keep in mind before choosing to get off your bum and going for it.
Specialist in Pain Management and Spine Rehabilitation