What It's Really Like To Live With Arthritis As An Athlete
I’ve been a competitive athlete since I was 12 years old. I played soccer, volleyball and basketball throughout high school and college. But when I graduated from college, my body wasn’t able to keep up with the rigors of training as much as it once did. Every time my joints moved, they felt like they were on fire. So I went online to find out what was causing this pain—and found out that my joints weren’t just inflamed; they were inflamed because they’d developed arthritis. And if that wasn’t bad enough news for me (and it was), my doctor told me that there was no cure for arthritis and that it would get worse over time if left untreated.
Every time the basketball player was on a team, he’d end up in the hospital.
The basketball player was on a team, but he’d end up in the hospital. Every time he played, his arthritis would flare up. And if you’ve ever had a flare-up of arthritis, you know how bad it can be. He’d have to go to the hospital for treatment and recovery. This went on until finally, he couldn’t play basketball anymore because of his arthritis.
Now that’s what I call an athlete with arthritic pain!
I had to ask myself, ‘Is this who I am?’
I had to ask myself, “Is this who I am?” The answer was no. It’s not who I am, it’s just part of me.
I still had my life ahead of me and the drive to do new things and experience different cultures. But it was hard to fully enjoy these opportunities because of the constant pain and fatigue that came with having arthritis in both knees.
It was also difficult for me because I needed help from others with simple tasks like opening jars or driving long distances if something hurt too much for me to do by myself. This made me feel embarrassed about being disabled at times, despite having never been ashamed before then.
I had to go online and find random sports leagues for people with disabilities.
As you can imagine, it can be difficult to find sports leagues that work well for someone with arthritis. There are a lot of different types of sports out there, so finding one that fits your physical limitations is key. I decided to go online and look for random sports leagues for people with disabilities. It was really helpful because it allowed me to do an initial search and then narrow down my options from there. Eventually, I found one that had a league for wheelchair basketball players in my area!
It’s hard not to be envious of my teammates who don’t have chronic pain or fatigue.
It’s hard not to be envious of my teammates who don’t have chronic pain or fatigue. In the beginning, it was easy to feel like I was letting down my team by not being able to play at a top level. As time has gone on and my symptoms have worsened, it has become harder to get out of bed in the morning and go train with everyone else. I know that they would understand if they knew what I went through every day but there is still an element of shame associated with having these conditions as an athlete.
It’s important to remember that you are not alone in this situation! Many athletes struggle with chronic pain and fatigue. For some reason, people tend to think that athletes are supposed only work out when they need to; however there is no strict rule stating how much you should be working out in order for your body type or sport requires it. If anything makes sense — start slow! Don’t push yourself too hard or too fast because then you could end up hurting yourself even more than before (which defeats the purpose)!
Talking about my disability and how it affects me takes a lot of effort.
Talking about your disability is a process that takes energy and effort. You have to be honest with yourself first, because that’s going to determine how honest you can be with others. When I was getting treatment for my arthritis and talking to my doctors, they asked me questions like: “How much pain are you in?” or “What are your limitations?”
I felt like I had to answer those questions honestly, but sometimes it’s hard for me (and maybe for others) to admit that I’m limited by my arthritis. Sometimes it feels easier for people around me if I pretend like everything is normal and pretend like there aren’t any problems. But pretending isn’t always good for anyone involved!
There are times when I feel really limited by my arthritis.
There are times when I feel really limited by my arthritis. When I have a flare-up, it’s hard to do what I used to be able to do. For example, running is painful for me because of the joint pain and inflammation in my knees and ankles. There are also days where it’s difficult for me to even walk down the stairs without some pain in my joints. These days are hard because they remind me that something has changed about my life—and not in a good way!
If you don’t speak up, no one will know what you need to succeed.
The community I live in is so small. If you don’t speak up, no one will know what you need to succeed. I’ve learned that if there’s something I need as an athlete with arthritis, then I have to make sure people know what my needs are and how they can help me achieve my goals. If you don’t speak up, you’ll be left out of the conversation. If you don’t speak up, your teammates won’t know which events they should support and cheer for when they see them on TV later that night or during their respective competitions down the road — and that could lead them to feel left out themselves!
I’m telling all of this because I want all athletes with arthritis who are struggling with living their best lives despite chronic pain conditions (or any condition) understand that it’s OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP! You don’t have to do everything alone; reach out if someone offers assistance.*
Asking for accommodation doesn’t mean that you’re asking for special treatment; it means you’re asking for equal treatment.
Ac-com-mo-da-tion is not a special privilege. It’s a right.
In our society, we tend to think of disability as a sign of weakness or laziness; but this isn’t true at all. Disability rights advocate the idea that accommodations are not only necessary for people with disabilities but also that they’re signs of strength and resilience. The truth is, living with arthritis as an athlete becomes much more difficult when you’re competing at an elite level without proper care.
Ultimately, living with arthritis as an athlete is not easy. I have to work harder than most people in order to maintain my fitness level and compete on a level playing field with my teammates. But I’ve learned that it’s important for me to speak up about what I need, because if I don’t speak up then no one will know what accommodations are necessary for me to succeed and participate fully in my sport.