Sports injuries and arthritis


The basics…

Introduction and background

While injuries occurring in sports and physical activities are usually mild and many are never reported, they can severely impact the lifestyle, cost of living and the degree of severity of the disease if the injured person also has arthritis.  More severe injuries may either be acute, chronic or overuse injuries. They may be caused by intrinsic or extrinsic factors, either alone or in combination. Some of the commonly occurring sports injuries with or without arthritis include popular team games, such as soccer, volleyball, basketball and ice hockey. While endurance sports seem to have the highest rates of overuse injuries, these injuries rarely result in permanent disability

What are sports injuries?

Sometimes also known as “athletic injuries”, the majority of sports injuries are similar to injuries that normally occur in non-athletes. However, the key fact that differentiates them from the other general type of injuries is that such injuries may have occurred during sporting activities. Many are common to a variety of sports.

What are the risk factors for sports injuries in arthritis?

With respect to arthritis in particular, following risk factors may contribute to the occurrence of sports injuries:

Age: Elderly are more prone to sports injuries, in fact, any injuries as compared to the young and middle age people.

Weight: Obese or overweight people with arthritis have a tremendously increased risk of developing a sports injury.

Occupation: Certain occupations such as those involving overuse of the joints or heavy weight handling can also make a person prone to such injuries.

Malnutrition / improper diet: Lack of healthy, well balanced diet will result in improper nutrition and deficiency of important minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron. All of these can collectively increase the risk of sports injury in arthritis sufferers.

Women: Studies and clinical trials show that women, especially of post-menopausal age (after 45) are more vulnerable to sports injuries. This is probably because of the fact that they are also at higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

Examples of sports injuries

Some frequently occurring sports injuries include strains, sprains, dislocations, fractures, and lacerations. These injuries cause pain, loss of function and affect quality of life. They may result in loss of training or competition or absence from work.

Common sites for sports injuries in arthritis

While sports injuries can occur at any site, the following types are considered more frequent:

1-Ankle injuries

2- Knee injuries

3-Shoulder / arm injuries

4-Back injuries


Once an injury has been sustained, there are still measures that may prevent arthritis. Avoiding strenuous or demanding activities may decrease the chances of arthritis. In many cases, the problem can be surgically corrected, restoring proper mechanics and thereby hopefully preventing arthritis. However, this is needed only in extreme cases.

If arthritis does result, there are also many ways to treat the symptoms. The first is activity modification (lifestyle and dietary changes). Occasionally, orthotics or braces may help. Medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen may offer relief, although, only temporarily. Physical therapy, including exercises, is also helpful. New over-the-counter nutritional supplements such as Provailen may also help. Occasional joint injections may give some relief. When all other measures have failed, surgery ranging from arthroscopy to joint replacement can be performed.