Summertime Fun Now, Osteoarthritis Pain Later
Fun, fun, fun That is what summer is all about now that school is out and the winter blizzards are a thing of the past. Before the parachutes, wakeboards, skateboards, and soccer balls come out of the closet, a few words of caution should be heeded. Before the horses are loaded up for the big summer ride and roundup, some warnings should be understood.
Even with the best intention for safety and fun, many activities of enjoyment can cause injury. Those injuries usually amount to chronic pain with arthritis in the future because no matter how far the practice of medicine has come, injuries rarely heal back to an original, pristine state. Mirco-injury to ligaments and cartilage leave a joint vulnerable to the effects of overuse, stress, and aging. Thus, these joints become arthritically inflamed and painful later. The price of pain might be in years to come, but it will come. Take a look at the common injuries associated with some popular summertime activities.
Skydive Now, Pain Later
The adrenaline rush of jumping out of an airplane must be thrilling and exhilarating. Such a risky hobby does come with a heavy price, sometimes the ultimate price. Besides the risk of death, many avid skydivers suffer from chronic neck pain and headaches. In fact, one of my clients used to be a skydiving instructor. After years of tandem jumping with students, he now has chronic neck pain and headaches despite already having one segment of his neck fused. The problem with skydiving is that when that parachute deploys, the body is quickly decelerated like being involved in a vehicle accident. With such a sudden force, the neck and head are whipped around like a ragdoll. Whiplash injuries are difficult enough to recover from without having repeated injuries every time one jumps out of a plane. Jumper beware, chronic pain is lurking.
Boarding Now, Pain Later
Wakeboards and skateboards fall into the same category when it comes to injuries. When the user falls off of a board, he/she lands on a concrete-like surface. Wakeboarders should not fool themselves about being on water: at high speed the water feels like concrete. Landing with such force causes many injuries to shoulders, wrists, and knees. Because both skateboarding and wakeboarding are done by the young and young-at-heart, adding speed with youth often results in chronic pain later. Many young people around the age of 40 are being seen in pain management clinics like mine because of such youthful follies. The common statement from these patients is: “I wish I would have taken better care of myself”. By the time those words are uttered, it is too late; the arthritis is there to stay.
Play Soccer Now, Pain Later
Many parents encourage their young children to take up soccer, mistakenly thinking that it is a safe, non-contact sport. Well, the kids grow up and the soccer game gets rough, very rough. (Have you watched any World Cup Soccer lately?) By far, the most commonly injured joint is the knee. Just in the past month, I have seen two young men, both played soccer, both with knee injuries. Between the two of them, they have had four knee surgeries and are still disabled with pain. A permanently injured, arthritic knee by the age of 30 is not easy to deal with. Knee replacement surgeries are reserved for older individuals because the lifespan of an artificial knee is not 50 years. Try telling a 30 year old man that he cannot go for runs or play soccer anymore. Trust me, he will not take it well. Before taking up a sport, parents and children need to understand the risks for pain later.
Horse-Around Now, Pain Later
Every year, at least 50,000 people go to the emergency room with a horse-related injury. According to research, 20% of these injuries are to the head and neck. At least 40% of the injuries are to the upper and lower extremities. And one-quarter of these visits are due to broken bones. When bones break, the potential for associated joint injuries is high. Joint ligaments and cartilage have a finite ability to heal back to a normal, pristine state. Usually the injured joint is left with a little bit of instability that allows for post-traumatic arthritis to take hold. Living in the country, I see many, many people with chronic pain - not just in one body part, but in multiple body parts because of being thrown, stepped on, or kicked by a horse. Horsing around can be fun, until the pain comes later.
All of these summertime activities can be very fun, just be prepared for what happens later if you get injured. If you accept the risk now, prepare to accept the pain of arthritis later. No cry babies please.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.