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How Carmelo Anthony Stays On the Ball

The NBA star scores points for his team and for young people following in his footsteps.

How Carmelo Anthony Stays Healthy continued...

"When I was younger, it was something that I just didn't get," Anthony recalls. "When I was 18, I didn't yet really understand the fact that you had to lift weights, you had to stay conditioned, you had to eat right. It took me some time to follow that and get that down pat. Once I did, it was just a part of everyday life, it was a routine -- you work out, you eat right, you sleep right."

But despite these good health habits, Anthony demands so much of himself physically that the occasional injury is inevitable. This past season, he missed several games due to knee pain. "Even when all I feel is pain, I still want to psych myself up, be naïve, and tell myself it will get better on its own," says Anthony. "I don't want to just sit back and turn my back on my team."

Not surprisingly, knee injuries are common among basketball players, says David McAllister, MD, a professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and chief of the Sports Medicine Service. "Lots of stress can cause the knee to become inflamed and painful," says McAllister, who is not Anthony's doctor, "but the pain often indicates a relatively benign condition."

More serious injuries, such as those that damage cartilage in the knee, often require surgery to repair. When you do that kind of damage to yourself, play becomes impossible. "You feel it with every step, every jump, every landing," McAllister says.

Common Knee Injuries

Knee injuries account for nearly 20 million doctor visits annually. Athletes run a particularly high risk due to the demands they place on this complex joint, and there are many ways to hurt it. These are among the most common knee injuries.

Tendinitis is the most frequent complaint, McAllister says. This overuse injury causes inflammation and pain. Treatment usually requires no more than rest, ice packs, and a knee support, such as a neoprene brace. Regular exercise can help protect against tendinitis.

Meniscus tears, often caused by sudden twists, awkward landings, and other missteps, are hard to prevent. These injuries to the cartilage that serves as the knee's shock absorber frequently require surgery to repair, says McAllister. Doctors may prescribe physical therapy in some cases.

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries can be disabling and may lead to arthritis down the road, says McAllister. They are often caused by the same type of motion responsible for meniscus tears and are equally difficult to prevent. While mild ACL injuries can heal with the help of muscle-strengthening exercises and a brace for knee protection, many severe cases call for surgery.

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