Watching the Olympics? Even athletes are subject to osteoarthritis

Why are Olympic athletes at risk for osteoarthritis, and do you share the same risk factor? Knowing about osteoarthritis can help you prevent it. Photo: Bettiniphoto

At the juncture of our body’s joints, bones meet on a cushion of cartilage that allows ease of movement. Without these amazing joints, we would have no Olympics, no astounding athletes to watch while moving our hand from a bag of chips (or carrots?) to our mouth.  

We usually do not give things such as our body’s joints much thought when they are working well. The pain of osteoarthritis changes that. Sometimes the discomfort is so great joints become the focus of attention. Osteoarthritis typically lodges in the hips, knees, lower back, hands, and neck.

Osteoarthritis Risk Factors 

One of the risk factors for joint problems such as osteoarthritis is repetitive movements, something construction workers, typists, and athletes have in common. It is wise for us to change-up the way we do things, especially if continuously performing activities using the same motions. 

How typical of life that we need to exercise our body for good health, yet wear and tear on joints is a factor in developing osteoarthritis. Other risk factors are joint injuries, malformed bones, age, weight, and other illnesses. Sex is a factor also; not the act, but the type. Women have this problem more than men.  

Why It Hurts

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions our joints degenerates. If you have ever gone down a metal slide on a piece of waxed paper, you can understand how the slippery, firm cartilage tissue keeps our joints friction free. 

Without the waxed paper, skin, shoes, and clothing can stick to the slide, forcing the slider to inch their way down. The ease of movement is lost. (Do they make metal slides anymore? Waxed paper?)   

Although motion can be distressing with joint damage, many athletes manage their arthritis with vigorous movement.

Keep Moving

One female and former Olympian with osteoarthritis is the graceful skater Dorothy Hamill who won a gold medal in 1976. She has to warm up longer than in days of yore because of arthritis in her hips, neck, and knees, but she continues to skate. For some athletes though, arthritis is diagnosed during their competitive career.

Cyclist Kristin Armstrong was 28 when given her diagnosis in 2001. She has used cycling since then to manage her arthritis, earn three world championship medals, and a gold in Beijing. Most non-Olympians with arthritis choose low impact activities and exercises such as yoga and swimming, after discussing exercise with their doctor. 

Our mental, emotional, and physical health are inextricably intertwined. While watching the Olympic runners, gymnasts, cyclists, or divers, give an appreciative thought to your joints. Your hinges, pivots, ball and sockets, saddle, condyloid and gliding joints do you a great service everyday.


You can learn more about osteoarthritis, and arthritis prevention, at

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Jacqueline Marshall

Jacqueline Marshall is a writer for Help For Depression, and freelances primarily in the areas of psychology and personal development. She has a MA in Counseling Psychology and is a licensed therapist living near Chicago.

Jacqueline has experience helping those diagnosed with severe, persistent mental illness, and in providing general therapy services for individuals, couples, and families. Prior to counseling, she worked in graphic design and music education.

When not writing or counseling, Jacqueline enjoys reading literature and math-less books about quantum physics. She is a published poet, and has studied animal communication and energy healing.  


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