Home Health & Wellness Arthritis in Sportspeople: Types, Causes, and Management Strategies

Arthritis in Sportspeople: Types, Causes, and Management Strategies

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Arthritis, a condition characterised by joint inflammation, can be particularly challenging for athletes who rely on their physical health for performance. Despite this challenge, many sportspeople can continue their activities with the right strategies and adjustments. This article explores effective ways to manage arthritis while maintaining an active lifestyle in sports.

Arthritis is a common condition that refers to inflammation of the joints. It manifests in various forms, each involving different mechanisms, symptoms, and treatments. Here’s a more detailed look at arthritis, its types, causes, and symptoms:

Types of arthritis

Arthritis is not a single disease; it encompasses more than 100 different conditions that affect joints, the tissues surrounding the joint, and other connective tissues. The most common types include:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA). Often called degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in your joints gradually deteriorates. This leads to pain and stiffness as bone begins to rub against bone.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue, including joints, and potentially internal organs. In rheumatoid arthritis, the lining of the joint becomes inflamed, causing damage to joint tissue. This can lead to chronic pain, unsteadiness, and deformity.
  • Psoriatic arthritis. It affects some people with psoriasis, a condition that features red patches of skin topped with silvery scales. Most people develop psoriasis first and are later diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, but joint problems can occasionally occur before skin lesions appear.
  • Gout. This type is characterised by sudden, severe attacks of pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness in the joints, often the joint at the base of the big toe. High blood uric acid levels result in an accumulation of urate crystals in the joint, which is the cause of gout.

Arthritis in athletes

Arthritis in athletes can stem from repetitive stress on joints, previous injuries, or genetic predispositions. Common symptoms include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, which can impair athletic performance. The most prevalent types affecting athletes are osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) and rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disorder).

  • Medical consultation and treatment. The first step in managing arthritis is consulting a healthcare provider who can offer a diagnosis and personalised treatment plan. Treatment may include medications like NSAIDs for pain relief, Diclofenac like this sold at homehealthcareshoppe.com, corticosteroid injections, or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) for rheumatoid arthritis. For some, surgery might be an option to repair or replace severely damaged joints.
  • Modify training regimens. Athletes with arthritis may need to modify their training routines to reduce joint stress. Low-impact activities such as swimming, cycling, or elliptical training can maintain fitness without exacerbating joint pain. Incorporating more stretching and warm-up exercises can also enhance joint flexibility and reduce stiffness.
  • Physical therapy. Working with a physical therapist can be invaluable. They can provide targeted exercises that strengthen muscles around affected joints, improving support and reducing the burden on them. Physical therapy can also include pain management techniques like ice or heat therapy, electrical nerve stimulation, and manual joint manipulation.
  • Nutrition and supplements. Proper nutrition is crucial for managing arthritis. A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, and whole grains can help reduce joint inflammation. Supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin may also provide relief for some athletes, though it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.
  • Adequate rest and recovery. Rest is as important as activity when dealing with arthritis. Ensuring adequate sleep and allowing time for joints to recover after intense activity can prevent worsening symptoms. Additionally, incorporating rest days into training schedules helps in long-term joint health preservation.
  • Use of supportive gear. Supportive devices such as braces, orthotics, or compression wear can stabilise and protect joints during activity. These aids can also alleviate pain and prevent injury, making them especially useful during high-impact sports or competitions.
  • Mental and emotional support. Dealing with arthritis can be frustrating and demotivating for athletes accustomed to high levels of activity. Support from coaches, teammates, family, and friends is crucial. Additionally, working with a sports psychologist can help in developing coping strategies to deal with the psychological impacts of the condition.


While arthritis presents significant challenges for athletes, it does not necessarily spell the end of a sports career. Through careful management, including medical treatment, training adjustments, and support, many athletes can continue to perform and excel in their sports. It’s about adapting – not just the body, but also the mindset – to navigate the complexities of arthritis effectively.

Julian Carter, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

© Copyright 2014–2034 Psychreg Ltd