Do Rugby Players Always get Arthritis?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Many elite athletes are on a downwards spiral to joint problems. Studies have found that professional rugby players have nearly 10 times the hazard of joint arthritis, even if they never suffer a noticeable joint injury.

Findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine have built on past evidence to show that there are later joint problems amongst former rugby players. In fact, it’s been shown that half of 284 professional rugby players have reported having arthritis in their knees or hips, many years after retirement. And none of those who reported experiencing weight-bearing arthritis had ever suffered a serious injury.

Hip Problems

You don’t need to have suffered a previous injury to have hip problems. Such problems are 10 times more frequent in former rugby players than in groups of people of similar age who had never partaken in professional sports.

It’s not exactly known why this is, but the theory is that some players had groin strains at some point in their career which could be related to hip arthritis. But it could just be the sport itself and the player’s build that contributes to the chances of arthritis later on in life.

Ex-Athletes Are Prone to Joint Problems

In any sport that requires fast running, a lot of players tend to develop hip osteoarthritis later on. Those most prone to the condition, it seems, are those who are built to master their sport. Often such athletes tend to be bow-legged or even slightly pigeon toes. This build gives them amazing speed, but it also causes the hip joint to be more forward angled and as they train for years on end (or even decades) the joint eventually wears out.

On top of that the constant pounding from the hours of running every day only serve to be aggravated by the weight gain that comes with retirement. So if an ex-athletes puts on about 15 pounds to a joint that’s already strained, that adds a great deal of extra stress.

Are Joint Problems Inevitable?

Not necessarily. But those built for their sports are at a slightly higher risk of arthritis and hip problems later on. It doesn’t matter who the athlete is; their age or their body type or even what sport they play, so long as the appropriate warm-up movements are done before running, athletes can reduce the risk of later joint problems.

Recommended Stretches to Avoid Arthritis

  1. Place the heel of your foot on a chair or the edge of a tabletop in front of you and point your toes up. Keep the other foot flat on the floor as you slowly lean forwards to reach for your toes and stretch the hamstring. Touch your toes and hold for a few seconds and repeat a few times before swapping feet.
  2. Lie face up on the floor and bring the left knee to the chest, keeping the right leg straight out on the floor. Hold the stretch for a couple of seconds and then lower the left leg to repeat with the right leg.
  3. Lie flat out on the floor and bend the left knee. Bring the left knee over to touch the right shoulder and hold for a few seconds before lowering. Repeat the activity when the right knee to left shoulder.

While a degree of arthritis is inevitable, it can be kept at bay with the right stretches.

Come and see one of our sports physio specialist's and we'll get you on the right track!

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