That old football injury may have healed long ago, but the post-trauma damage can last a lifetime.

You may not remember the time you twisted your ankle while playing football in high school, but your body does. A study has found that post-traumatic arthritis, a type of osteoarthritis, is a leading cause of joint disability. This chronic disease is caused by injury and wear and tear of the joints, and it affects 23 percent of adults nationwide.

When an injury affects a joint, it may heal completely but develop arthritis, sometimes decades later. One way to tell if you have post-traumatic arthritis is if the arthritis occurs in only one joint. Another clue is if arthritis occurs at a younger age. Typically, osteoarthritis usually develops in people who are 60 or older.

Common sports injuries that can trigger post-traumatic arthritis include sprains, knee injuries, cartilage tears, fractures and dislocations. These can be acute injuries that occur suddenly or chronic injuries with nagging, ongoing pain.

Reducing Arthritis Pain

While there is no cure for arthritis, the following are ways to minimize pain and maximize use of your joint:

  • Use anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce swelling and pain
  • Rest the joint after repeated use
  • Strengthen and improve the range of motion in the joint using weights
  • Apply cold or heat packs as needed, or have massages to loosen stiffness in the joint

You can also slow the effects of arthritis by maintaining the appropriate weight for your size and exercising regularly. Avoid continual stress on your joints if possible.

Cutting-Edge Arthritis Research at Keck

The doctors at the USC Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Keck Medicine of USC are on the cutting edge of research to discover new osteoarthritis therapies that could significantly impact standards of care for the disease. Denis Evseenko, MD, PhD, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery, stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, is working to develop a cheaper, minimally invasive therapy that will reduce the need for joint replacement surgeries.

“Bridging the gap between scientific innovation and clinical application is critical for our mission to provide the best quality of patient care,” said Jay Lieberman, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

By Heidi Tyline King

If you’re in the Los Angeles area and are in search of an orthopaedic surgeon, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit ortho.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment to schedule an appointment.