Are Ex-Athletes at a Higher Risk of Joint Pain Later in Life?

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It is often noticed that athletes get injured in their dedication for sports and overuse their joints in the course of their career. Repetitive movements of the joints can lead to physical stress and gradually in wearing away of the cartilage.

When it comes to answering the main question, many research studies have found out that ex-athletes do have a higher risk of joint pain later in their lives. The main reason for happening so is the overuse of the joints and the inevitable injuries

But this cannot overshadow the fact that athletes are one of the healthiest people in the world and their physical activity prevents them from diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart attacks, etc.

Along with stating this, one should not lose hope and consider that nothing can be done as far as diseases like arthritis are concerned. With proper care and precautions, athletes can keep their joints fit and intact.

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How can athletes prevent themselves from joint pain later in their lives?

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The thing that naturally comes into our minds when thinking of preventing pain is preventing injuries. In the course of their profession, athletes should steer clear of injuries as much as possible by wearing all safety equipment during the match as well as in practice. 

Warming up and stretching before the game can prepare the muscles, ligaments, and tendons for the exertion and reduce the risk of injury. Cooling down after the game is equally important. It is also often observed that athletes rush back to playing even with injuries. Doing so can cause serious life-long damage to the joints.

Athletes should also pay attention to the symptoms and signs that appear and work towards getting them fixed in time. Most common symptoms include:

  • Joint pain: If you experience joint pain after overuse or inactivity of the joints suddenly, it is a sign that the cartilages are wearing away and should be taken care of.
  • Joint stiffness: If you feel stiffness in your joints in the period of inactivity but it starts to feel better with movement, then it is advised that you don’t ignore it and seek help to prevent any further damage.
  • Morning joint stiffness:  Experiencing stiffness in joints after waking up in the morning can be a sign of arthritis. One should get a check-up as soon as possible in such cases.

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What increases the risk of joint problems?

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Though the cartilages wear away on their own, there may be certain specific reasons that can lead to this problem. Some of them are given below:

  • Being overweight: Excess weight puts additional stress on joints, particularly on the knees, causing joint pain and increasing the risk of arthritis.
  • Previous injury to a joint: According to a research study, an estimated 15 percent of osteoarthritis cases can be traced back to a previous injury. Therefore, if you have had a bone fracture or any joint injury, it may lead to joint pain in later life.
  • Hereditary factors: Many studies have associated genetic and environmental factors with an increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Family history of RA has been found as one of the strongest associations concerning joint pains.
  • Certain diseases: Certain diseases like Gout affect joints like toes, ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers.

How to manage Joint Pain?

  • Exercise: Practice exercises such as shoulder rolls, side bends, hip swings, hip rolls, trunk rotation, hamstring stretch and quadriceps stretch to condition your joints.
  • Adequate rest: Rest is extremely important to relieve joint pain. Scheduled rest is essential to avoid overworking of the damaged joint.
  • Heat and Cold Therapy: Applying heat using warm towels/hot water bottles or using ice packs can help in improving circulation and soothing joint pain.
  • Physiotherapy: Physiotherapy can help substantially in easing your joint pains and help you perform your activities better.
  • Medication: Over-the-counter medications and anti-inflammatory medicines can help in managing joint pains temporarily and help you in staying active.
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