Can Sports Injuries Cause Arthritis? | Keck Medicine of USC

Can Sports Injuries Cause Arthritis?

That old sports injury may have healed long ago, but the damage can last a lifetime.

You may not remember the time you twisted your ankle while playing sports 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% 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 develops in people who are aged 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.

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Reducing Arthritis Pain

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

  • Use anti-inflammatory medications 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 Medicine of USC

The doctors at the USC Orthopaedic Surgery are leading research efforts to discover new osteoarthritis therapies that could significantly impact standards of care for the disease. Denis Evseenko, MD, PhD, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery, is working to develop a cost-effective, 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,” says Jay Lieberman, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Keck Medicine of USC and chair and professor 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 to schedule an appointment.