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Ex-Athletes Prone to Joint Problems

Stretching Can Help Weekend Warriors Avoid Same Fate, Says Expert
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"In soccer players and in many other sports that require fast running, we've seen many athletes develop hip osteoarthritis down the road - even if they didn't have a previous hip injury," says David Dines, MD, chairman of orthopedic surgery at Long Island Jewish Medical Center and medical director for the Long Island Roughriders soccer team.

He notes that those "built" to master their sport seem to be most prone. "These people are often slightly bow-legged and perhaps a bit pigeon-toed -- a build like Jackie Robinson that helps gives them incredible speed," Dines tells WebMD. "Because of this, their hip joint is typically forward angled a bit and as they train and train for years or decades, they eventually wear away at the joint."

Of course, the constant pounding from hours of running each day are only aggravated by weight gain that often occurs after retiring. "If you put on 15 pounds to a joint that's already susceptible, that's a tremendous amount of additional stress."

Dines says this doesn't mean that hip problems are inevitable for all former soccer players, football running backs, or sprinters - or even recreational athletes with slightly bowed legs and a tendency to run with toes pointing slightly inward.

"These people, in particular, might be at a slightly higher risk of later hip problems," says Dines. "But no matter who you are, your age, your body type or what sport, if you do the appropriate warm-up exercises before running, you may help reduce the risk of these later hip problems."

His recommended stretches:

Place the heel of one foot on a chair or edge of a desktop in front of you so toes are pointing upward, while your other foot is flat on the floor.

  • Slowly lean forward to touch your toes, stretching your hamstring.
  • Hold the "touch" for about three-to-five seconds, and repeat several times.
  • Then switch feet.

Lying face up with your back to the floor,

  • Bring your left knee to your chest while your right leg remains stretched on the floor and hold for five seconds.
  • Lower your left leg and repeat with the other leg, bringing your right knee to your chest and holding for five seconds before lowering.
  • Bend your left knee and try to touch your right shoulder, holding for five seconds before lowering. Repeat with your right knee trying to touch your left shoulder. Repeat each of these exercises about five times before each workout.

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