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Knee arthritis on the rise among active mid-lifers

June 8, 2007

Margaret Perry, Channel NewsAsia

Arthritis, a painful condition commonly associated with aging, is on the rise, among otherwise healthy middle-aged people.

One of them is Mr S Eswaran who started playing soccer when he was 14.

The 52-year-old used to hit the pitch at least three times a week until six months ago when severe knee pain forced him to stop.

He said: "It's like losing a wife. It's totally different. I feel very frustrated especially when I pass by the field and see others playing soccer."

His desire to play football again drove him to seek treatment.

An x-ray showed that his knee cartilage had worn down on the inside of his knee joints.

The damage was caused by a string of minor injuries while playing soccer and these injuries were made worse when Mr Eswaran put on weight.

But it is not just soccer players who are at risk of knee arthritis.

Dr Sathappan, Orthopaedic Consultant, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, said: "Playing soccer is as good as running in terms of cardiovascular physical activity. It does involve a certain amount of stresses that is imposed on the knee joint with every impact of the foot against the ground. As a result, there will be definite damage to the cartilage."

Mr Eswaran still feels some pain in his knees but they are nearly back to full working order after he received injections to lubricate the joints.

But his knees are likely to deteriorate over time and eventually he will need knee replacement surgery.

As more Singaporeans take up sports, this sort of knee damage is becoming more common among younger people.

Doctors are now seeing patients in their mid-forties having to resort to knee replacement surgery to give them a new lease of life.

10 years ago, fewer than one in ten patients going for knee replacement surgery at Tan Tock Seng Hospital were under the age of 70.

Now, about four in ten patients going under the knife for a new knee are in their 50s and 60s.

Doctors said the best way for sportsmen to avoid problems is to warm up properly before exercising in order to minimise the risk of repeated knee injuries.

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