Advice for Athletes Who Suffer From Ankle Arthritis

Athletes who have experienced ankle injuries may be at a high risk of ankle arthritis. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons states that, even if a joint is treated properly following an injury, the risk that it will become arthritic increases sevenfold. Athletes may also fall victim to osteoarthritis. This condition, which occurs with age as cartilage in the joint wears down, may be exaggerated by other stresses, including the victim’s lifestyle. It is important that athletes with ankle arthritis make concessions to their condition and be realistic about whether they can continue their current activities.

Staying Flexible About Athletic Activity

Some athletes continue in their sports after being diagnosed with arthritis. Cyclist Kristin Armstrong claimed an Olympic gold medal while suffering from hip arthritis and taking medicine for the pain. Decades after winning an Olympic medal, Dorothy Hamill still figure skates more than five days a week, despite having osteoarthritis of the neck, hip, and knee. However, many athletes have to shift their focus because of arthritis. Athletes with ankle arthritis should look for effective changes but accept that they may not be able to continue all of their usual activities.

Identifying Triggers for Pain or Damage

Athletes with ankle arthritis are usually advised to limit or eliminate the following activities to avoid pain or further joint damage:

  • Running or jogging
  • High-impact aerobic exercises
  • Jumping rope

Typically, exercises that require both feet to be off the ground at once should be avoided. So should exercises that put excessive force on one or both ankles. Simply walking puts plenty of force on an injured ankle.

Making Proactive Changes

Simple changes may help athletes stay active in spite of arthritis. Proper, professionally fitted footwear is essential for athletes with ankle arthritis. People who developed arthritis because of a past injury can benefit from wearing a brace to stabilize the weak ankle. Regular exercise is essential for any serious athlete, but it is especially important for those with arthritis. Athletes shouldn’t force themselves to complete activities that cause too much pain, but exercises that are tolerable and doctor-approved should be done on a regular basis. For victims of arthritis, activity is the key to maintaining mobility.

Understanding the Treatments Available

Many athletes wonder if joint replacement surgery is a feasible treatment option for ankle arthritis. Replacement can eliminate pain while preserving motion and basic joint function. However, artificial joints often require replacing, and any surgery introduces a risk of complications, which is why physicians may recommend alternatives. Some people find relief from anti-inflammatory drugs or medical treatments such as steroid injections. Recently, research has suggested that stem cell injections may also relieve pain and restore joint function. Athletes should always explore their options with a doctor who can evaluate the athlete’s lifestyle, sport, and medical history before recommending a treatment.

Final Tips for Managing Ankle Arthritis

Athletes should always listen to their bodies, and athletes with ankle arthritis are no exception. Although arthritis inevitably causes pain, it can be brought to manageable levels through medical treatments and appropriate lifestyle changes. Athletes who push themselves too hard may experience significant pain and further damage to the joint. Any athlete feeling doubts about managing ankle arthritis should meet with a physician to discuss options for treating and managing the condition.

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