Between OA Pain and Gold

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a joint disease that causes the cushion between the joints to break down over time. Symptoms include joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and limited range of motion. Movement is both friend and foe when you have OA. Overuse of joints raises your risk of developing it. Exercise helps minimize pain and keeps joints moving. For some Olympic athletes, the tightrope between OA pain and winning gold is a daily walk they balance in their quest for glory.

Difficult, Yes. Impossible, No.

With a claim to fame as the most decorated female cyclist in U.S. history, one would not believe Kristin Armstrong has osteoarthritis. She’s won gold medals in each of the last three Summer Olympics (2008, 2012, and 2016), her last being claimed just before her 43rd birthday in Rio. In 2001, Kristin wasn’t even cycling full-time when she was diagnosed with early signs of osteoarthritis in her hips. She credits OA pain as a friendly reminder to get back on track with regular physical activity to lessen the discomfort.

When chronic pain made getting out of bed seem impossible and interfered with her passion for skating, the answer came in the form of an OA diagnosis of the hips, knees, and neck for Dorothy Hamill. Though her Olympic gold win in 1976 seems a distant memory, Hamill remains active skating five days a week along with special appearances. These days, Dorothy uses her own positive experiences managing the pain of OA through regular, moderate physical activity to reach others. Hamill encourages other OA sufferers to get moving to manage related pain better.

Enduring OA pain wasn’t the hard part for 1984 Olympic gold medalist Bart Conner. For him, it was more shocking to have an arthritis diagnosis at the age of 22. Conner was diagnosed in 1980 with OA of the elbows and knees. During his career, he underwent five knee surgeries, two elbow surgeries, and two biceps surgeries. Shortly after he was later diagnosed with OA in his lower back, the FDA approved a new class of anti-inflammatory pain relievers called COX-2 inhibitors. Conner maintains his daily exercise routine with the help of one of these called Celebrex.

Patients Help Advance OA Options

Intense training is a likely contributor towards these Olympians developing osteoarthritis. However, clinical research breakthroughs have allowed us to continually improve the care and lives of individuals living with OA. If you have OA, your experiences as a patient can help advance options for this condition as a research participant. Get involved today in enrolling OA studies here at North Georgia Clinical Research. Call us at (678) 494-5735 or visit our website to learn more!