WE PAY FOR THE SINS OF OUR YOUTH
The information presented here came from research by Marie Suszynski (reviewed by Farrokh Sohrabi, MD) and my 40 years of treating patients including professional and college athletes.
When you were younger, kid and young adult, did you sprain an ankle, knee, have back, wrist shoulder, foot pain after an activity? If so, like most of us, yes, including me, it was ignored without treatment or shortly after recovery with treatment.
According to Joshua Baker, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center in Philadelphia, you could end up with arthritis in the involved joint(s) several years later. From my professional experience, change the word COULD to PROBABLY.
As many as 15% of people who have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis may have developed joint problems as a result of injury. Damaging a joint raises your chances of developing arthritis seven fold according to the Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Again, from my experience, that percentage is more like 75. The surgeons see only those who seek a surgical opinion/solution.
According to Louis Kwong, MD, chairman and program director of the department of orthopedic surgery at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, having a bone fracture, tendon or ligament injury makes you more likely to develop arthritis in that joint in the years to come.
A classic example of someone with post-traumatic arthritis is the high school athlete who tears a ligament (partial is a sprain) or cartilage in his or her knee and ends up with arthritis, sometimes decades later, according to Kwong.
He further stated that an injury sustained in a car accident is another type that could cause post traumatic arthritis. Your knee or ankles could be crushed, your wrist sprained, a hand broken or your back/neck would become strained as a result of a sudden jolt (whiplash). Even a relatively minor event could eventually lead to arthritis—an ankle sprained while hiking or a slip on ice that leads to a sprain or fracture.
According to Kwong, people can slow the progression of arthritis by keeping their body weight within a healthy range and exercising. He also encourages people to be conscious of the stress they put on their joints every day. If two men have high school football injuries and one goes on to have a desk job while the other is a construction worker, the construction worker is more likely to get early onset arthritis.
The arthritis could be osteoarthritis or an inflammatory arthritis such as gout, according to Anjali Casey, MD, rheumatologist with North Shore University Health System in Skokie, Illinois.
Even when doctors treat the injury immediately after it happens, treatment can’t make it as through the injury never happened.
Any sport can cause a fracture or injure a ligament or tendon. Quickly changing direction on a soccer field, stopping suddenly while playing tennis/hockey, landing the wrong way on a basketball court, crashing into another player, hyper-extending the spine or a joint in gymnastics resulting in pain can, and quite possibly will, lead to arthritis later on.
A 2010 study of nearly 2,500 people in Iceland, showed that men with strenuous occupations such as farming and fishing were more likely to need total knee replacement or total hip replacement surgery because of osteoarthritis, compared to managers and professionals in non-strenuous occupations.
An example in my practice was a woman in her late 20s who had bad neck pain, with some numbness and tingling in her hands. Her x-rays showed a reversal of her normal lordosis (forward curve) in her neck and significant osteoarthritis. The latter was far greater than one would expect in someone her age. When asked if she had a car accident or played varsity football in high school, she replied no to both. I was perplexed. The third time she came in for treatment, she said she remembered that age 16, she flew out of the windshield of a car, landing on the side of the road. I was no longer perplexed.
The same has been evident in teenagers and early twenties for those who were in gymnastics and cheer leading at an early age.
There are many good treatments. Medicines, as you will see on television ads, have many negative side effects. If you are suffering, you need to decide if the benefits are worth the risks. Chiropractic, Light therapy, diathermy, GENTLE physical therapy are good choices with virtually no negative side effects.
The title of this Blog is, “We Pay for the Sins of Our Youth.” In truth, we didn’t know or wouldn’t have believed that our activities could cause long term damage. I always cringe when I see young children carrying their younger siblings. The pressure on their incompletely developed joints and spine are far more than they should possibly bear. Even that common day occurrence is the precursor to early onset arthritis.
Now you know. What you do with this knowledge is up to you.