PARAMUS, N.J. -- Encouraging people to get moving is a key component of the national osteoarthritis awareness campaign. But certain sports can increase the load on joints, raising the risk of osteoarthritis over time. So how can you get fit while protecting your hips, knees, and ankles? The answer is cross training.
It’s good to give your body a rest and switch to other activities from time to time. If you run, for example, take a day off occasionally and do something else, like work out on an elliptical trainer or bike. During an exercise session, it’s also best to incorporate numerous small workouts, rather than one long workout, to target all major muscle groups. Taking a break from the same repetitive motions that exert a heavy load on your joints reduces stress and rests your joints.
For professional and amateur athletes, the risk of osteoarthritis increases with certain movements and injuries. For example:
- The risk of osteoarthritis in the knee increases if you experience an injury to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and/or to the meniscus — even if you have had it surgically repaired.
- Activities associated with friction between the bottom of the shoe and the sports surface may also place higher loads on the knee. For example, hard tennis courts, artificial turf and basketball courts can all cause friction on the shoe and exert more stress on the joints.
- Repetitive twisting, such as in golf or baseball, may exacerbate the load on hips, knees, and shoulders.
If you’re active or interested in pursuing an exercise program to reduce your osteoarthritis risk, congratulations. Just follow these tips to stay safe:
- Include weight training in your regimen. Strong muscles are better at supporting joints than weak muscles.
- Learn how to land properly. If you play a sport that requires a lot of jumping, like basketball or volleyball, land so that pressure is placed more evenly on the knees, reducing the risk of injury.
- Be sure to stretch gently before exercising to keep muscles, tendons and ligaments supple.
- Incorporate no-impact activities, such as swimming or cycling, or low- impact routines, such as walking or inline skating, into your exercise regimen. After returning from a break, ease back into sports.
Dr. Anil Ranawat is a sports medicine surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery. He practices at both the HSS Outpatient Center in Paramus and the hospital’s main campus in New York.