Joe Montana has arthritis. Yes, former professional athletes can have it, and indeed for Montana, years of playing impact-heavy football substantially damaged his joints, forcing him reevaluate his lifestyle and get serious about his joint issues.
The month of May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, an effort to spread the word about joint health, prevention, and treatment. It’s a condition that affects millions of Americans, both young and old.
And in fact, many athletes are arthritis prone, says Montana. But that doesn’t mean they know it. “As athletes, you might have a little arthritis in your shoulder or a little in your knee,” he said. “If I don’t have a lot, I’m still going to go out.”
Don’t ignore those aches, pains, or stiffness in your joints. Yes, there are temporary causes–and solutions–for these issues, but it can also be a sign of arthritis. Arthritis is a condition that impacts the mobility of your joints and can cause pain and disability. Montana went through multiple knee surgeries and had aches in his hands, shoulders, elbows, and even his neck.
To help raise funds for arthritis research, Montana teamed up with Joint Juice (a supplemental drink) to create a football game app, Throw the Joe, available for iPhone and iPads,. All proceeds benefit the Arthritis Foundation.
Here are 4 common myths about arthritis:
1. Arthritis only affects the aging. Arthritis does not discriminate. Anyone, at any age can be affected, according to the Arthritis Foundation. The most common type is osteoarthritis, the kind due to wear and tear on the joints over time (which is what Montana has), but also rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that can occur at any age, juvenile arthritis, an autoimmune disease in children, and other types.
2. Joint health is not a serious issue. The population of those with arthritis in the United States is increasing, with 67 million American predicted to have arthritis by 2030. It has slowly become the number one cause of disability in the United States.
3. Those with arthritis should avoid exercise. The Arthritis Foundation recommends starting out walking or doing water workouts. Montana lifts weights to keep his muscles in shape. “When muscles are strong, it takes pressure off them [joints].” Patience White, MD, and vice president of public health for the Arthritis Foundation says resistance training can provide numerous benefits for those who suffer from arthritis. Dr. White recommends simple exercises, including hamstring and calf stretches, or weightlifting with something as simple as 16-ounce soup cans.
4. There is no treatment for arthritis. “I always thought initially that there was nothing you could do to help to ease your everyday life,” Montana said. There are medication and treatments, as well yoga moves to help ease pain, natural remedies, and new treatments are in the pipeline, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Treatment also varies with the type of arthritis. Doctors often recommend those with rheumatoid arthritis get early treatment with medication that can slow the progress of the autoimmune disease, while osteoarthritis treatments may include weight loss, over-the-counter antinflammatories, and other remedies.