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Osteoarthritis is a plague to athletes.   Wear and tear on joints over time, and the resulting breakdown of joint cartilage means many athletes are prone to it. Sports that are relentlessly demanding on the bodies of athletes, placing enormous stress on their joints, lead to osteoarthritis later in life unless athletes are vigilant about prevention.

That said, osteoarthritis doesn’t only impact athletes. The Arthritis Society of Canada has recently cited osteoarthritis as the most common form of arthritis, affecting 1 in 10 Canadian adults. While osteoarthritis affects people of all ages, it is most common in adults over the age of 60.

What causes this disease?

Aside from wear and tear and overuse, most commonly associated with athletes, joint injury may also occur in motor vehicle accidents or accidents at work or home.  Athletes with a history of repeated injuries are also the most likely to develop osteoarthritis as they age. Fractures and infections arising from accidents can harm the internal tissues of a joint. Working with a sports therapy clinic can mitigate risk to athletes through preventative education and programs.

Joint wear and tear that simply occurs over time, which is often evident in the elderly, is also a cause of osteoarthritis. Not all elderly people develop osteoarthritis but many do since prolonged wear and tear isn’t always sports related but involves jobs that involve heavy labour and lifting.

The interesting paradox to osteoarthritis though is that inactivity can be just as harmful to the joints as is overuse and joint wear.  This is one of the reasons why osteoarthritis doesn’t only impact athletes.  A lack of exercise and inactivity can weaken the muscles that support joints. Over time, a joint that is underused may also become prone to injury, in addition to being sore and dysfunctional.

Furthermore, joints are only nourished when doing activity.  The motion of the joint moves joint fluid into and out of the cartilage, keeping it healthy.  That’s why activity is so important for joint health and preventing osteoarthritis.

Those carrying excessive body weight are at an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis. When excessive body weight bears down directly on the knees and hips, it causes the kind of joint stress that can lead to osteoarthritis. Diet and nutritional education offered by physiotherapy clinics experienced in treating osteoarthritis can be vital to losing weight and significantly reducing the chances of developing osteoarthritis.

There are people who are aware of, but ignore, the habits and lifestyles that can lead to osteoarthritis.  Others will develop it having done absolutely nothing to cause it.  Some research suggests that genetic predisposition also plays a significant part in osteoarthritis that is, if your parents had osteoarthritis you may be more likely to develop it than one whose parents didn’t pass down the genes for arthritis.

The only way to prevent osteoarthritis is to heed common causes and preventative measures. These include: exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy body weight, varying your exercise routines, being mindful of any joint pain and exercising vigilance to avoid injuries to your joints. If your job is physically demanding or you’re heavily into sports, invest in your health by working with a sports therapy clinic that can help you to come up with a program to reduce your chances of developing osteoarthritis.

For more information about the causes, prevention and treatment of osteoarthritis please call 416-800-0800 or visit www.aesm.ca

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