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Athletes are plagued by osteoarthritis. Many athletes are prone to joint wear and tear as well as the resulting breakdown of joint cartilage. Athletes who participate in sports that are relentlessly demanding on their bodies, putting enormous stress on their joints, are more likely to develop osteoarthritis later in life unless they are diligent about prevention. However, osteoarthritis does not affect only athletes. According to the Arthritis Society of Canada, osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting one out of every ten Canadian adults. While osteoarthritis affects people of all ages, it is most common in adults over the age of 60, says Dr. Mark Khoelman of the Ottawa Sports Medicine Clinic.

Aside from wear and tear and overuse, which are most commonly associated with athletes, joint injuries can also occur in car accidents, at work, or at home. Athletes who have a history of repeated injuries are more likely to develop osteoarthritis as they age. Accidental fractures and infections can harm the internal tissues of a joint. Working with a sports medicine clinic can help athletes reduce risk by providing preventative education and programs.

Osteoarthritis is also caused by joint wear and tear that occurs naturally over time, which is common in the elderly. Not all elderly people develop osteoarthritis, but many do because prolonged wear and tear isn’t always due to sports, but can also be due to jobs that require heavy labor and lifting. However, the interesting paradox of osteoarthritis is that inactivity can be just as damaging to the joints as overuse and joint wear. This is one of the reasons why osteoarthritis affects more than just athletes. Inactivity and a lack of exercise can weaken the muscles that support joints. In addition to being sore and dysfunctional, an underused joint may become prone to injury over time.

Furthermore, joints are only nourished when they are used. The motion of the joint causes joint fluid to flow into and out of the cartilage, which keeps it healthy. That is why physical activity is so important for joint health and osteoarthritis prevention. Those who are overweight are at a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis. When an individual’s body weight bears directly on the knees and hips, it causes joint stress that can lead to osteoarthritis. Diet and nutritional education provided by physiotherapists in sports medicine clinics with experience treating osteoarthritis can be critical to losing weight and significantly lowering the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

The only way to avoid osteoarthritis is to be aware of the common causes and take preventative measures. These include regular exercise, maintaining healthy body weight, varying your exercise routines, being aware of any joint pain, and exercising vigilance to avoid joint injuries. If your job is physically demanding or you participate in sports heavily, invest in your health by working with a sports therapy clinic to develop a program to reduce your chances of developing osteoarthritis.

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