Doctors: Joint damage from 'extreme' sports raises risk of arthritis
March 6, 1999
From Medical Correspondent Rhonda Rowland
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Extreme sports today -- extreme pain tomorrow?
That's the threat raised by doctors, some of whom warn that today's snowboarders, skaters and climbers could be tomorrow's arthritis patients. Some experts even warn of an epidemic.
"Osteoarthritis, the no. 1 type of arthritis in the U.S., may quadruple or be tenfold greater than what it is now, based on the numbers of joint injuries we're seeing currently," said Marian Hannan of Boston's Hebrew Rehabilitation Center.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the joints wear out. It can be extremely painful and debilitating.
Often, it's a natural part of aging. But people like Bob Fisher may develop it as a result of injury from vigorous activity. Fisher, a competition mountain biker and skiier, has seen his share of bad landings and bandages.
"I had knee surgery, which was more of a wear and tear thing," he said. "When I was younger, I broke my thumbs skiing."
Rheumatologists, like the Arthritis Foundation's Doyt Conn, say that means the odds are high that extreme sports enthusiasts like Fisher will end up with serious joint pain later in life.
"Major injuries to joints are going to predispose them to osteoarthritis," Conn said.
Conn -- himself an expert skiier -- urges aficionados to use a bit of caution and common sense on the slopes.
"They should be reasonable, and those that are involved in very vigorous activity prepare yourself as well as you can," he said. "But recognize that you are putting yourself at some risk."
And it's not just the kids on the snowboards who are in danger. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there's been a more than 50 percent increase in injuries among people 65 and older this decade.
The majority of those injuries can be linked their recipients spending more time in physically challenging sports such as in-line skating and snowboarding.
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