“60 percent of professional soccer players may end up suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee or hip, especially the first of these joints. In addition, a recent study found that the risk of needing knee replacements is two to three times higher than the general population. ” This was explained to CuídatePlus by Josep Vergès, President of the Osteoarthritis Foundation International (OAFI), on the occasion of a talk colloquium on joint health held in Madrid and co-organized with José Maria Villalon, head of medical services of Atletico de Madrid and Pedro Guillain, director of research at the Cemtro Clinic.
Verger says football players can develop osteoarthritis due to “overuse” of joints. From an early age, they do a lot of physical activity. And he makes the following comparison: “Car tires will wear out more if you drive on forest paths very often than if you park in a garage.” When it comes to the knees, footballers often have a lot of meniscus and ligament injuries that cause the joint to malfunction.
Although this is not usually considered, the OAFI osteoarthritis physician confirms that many footballers are forced to end their careers as a result of this pathology, and points out that the footballer’s position on the playing field strongly influences the location of the arthrosis as the loads are different. For example, goalkeepers do not have many knee injuries, but they suffer more from the hip, shoulder, hand and fingers.
With regard to prostheses, the expert claims that elite footballers need to put on prostheses. (from 65-70 years in the general population to 40-50 years for these athletes).
The consequences of osteoarthritis are paid not only by football players. Recently 32-year-old tennis player Andy Murray announced the possibility of withdrawal from the competition this year. Cause? She has osteoarthritis of the hip joint.
They teach Barça how to prevent and treat osteoarthritis
Prevention of osteoarthritis is one of the main directions opened by OAFI. What better way to combat the effects of this disease on footballers and delay their effects than by educating the professionals of the sport themselves. The Veterans Club of FC Barcelona was the first in the world to be trained on this issue, and the goal of this Foundation is to implement this program in other football clubs and even the Spanish Footballers’ Association.
“The training consists of four sessions in which we talk about what osteoarthritis is and its types, how it is diagnosed and what treatments are available. A trained and informed patient will develop much better. We also explain how to feed. If they are obese – which happens to some athletes when they stop competing and play so much sports – we teach them to eat right and put them on a special diet to lose weight. If they do not have enough drugs for osteoarthritis, we also prescribe them, ”says Verges.
In addition, physical therapists give them an idea of how to do home rehabilitation with a series of specific exercises to avoid having to put a prosthesis.
The last conversation they give is about how to deal with osteoarthritis pain. Mental and psychological techniques are helpful so that pain doesn’t control their lives.
This prophylactic attitude can and should begin in childhood, when boys and girls begin to play sports. “In children with cavernous, varus or flat feet it is necessary to ensure that they are not overweight and that they have injuries, so that they do not reach 35 and 40 years of age with osteoarthritis.” It’s worth seeing if they need to get some type of chondroprotector, ”says Vergès. It is also good for them to strengthen the quadriceps muscles when young.
Symptoms and complications
Vergés remembers the symptoms of osteoarthritis, a multifactorial disease that affects 7 million people in Spain, and its possible complications. Patients begin with pain that gradually gets worse. This is a very mechanical pain. As osteoarthritis progresses, pain incapacitates the patient, says the President of OAFI.
This rheumatic disease is sometimes associated with other pathologies such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. In terms of complications, osteoarthritis patients have a lot of anxiety and even depression because it drives them day in and day out. Finally, osteoarthritis can be a risk factor for mortality.