Athletes Grappling with Arthritis
The graceful ease and artistry that once came easily to iconic skater Dorothy Hamill has become much more difficult. Now 54, Hamill -- who won an Olympic gold medal at the 1976 Winter Olympics, and originated the move known as the Hamill Camel -- suffers from osteoarthritis in her hips, neck, and knees.
Long warm ups have become a necessity for Hamill, who has said that she still skates five days a week.
Hank Aaron secured his spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 when he hit his 715th career home run, surpassing Babe Ruth's all-time record. Ten years after his retirement from baseball, Aaron was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in his right knee.
Aaron now spends his time helping people get back in the game with the Arthritis Foundation. He spreads awareness of the disease by participating in events like the Arthritis Walk.
Many athletes discover that they have arthritis years after their career, but Kristin Armstrong was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in her hips in 2001 at the age of 28, before her greatest athletic achievements.
Armstrong used cycling as a way to deal with her arthritis. Since then, she has won three world championship medals and a gold medal at the Olympics in Beijing.
Kristy McPherson Kristy McPherson, who is a member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour and a three-time All-American Collegiate Golfer, has dealt with pain her whole life. McPherson was diagnosed at the age of 11 with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that causes illness and joint inflammation in young people. Golf became an outlet for McPherson because it was a sport that caused her relatively little pain. She, like many other athletes, turns to long stretches and exercise to keep her pain in check.
Often thought of as the best all-around player in hockey history, Gordie Howe has been dealing with arthritis in his wrists since his first retirement from the National Hockey League in the early 1970s. Howe underwent an operation to improve his wrists in 1973 when he was offered the chance to play with his sons on the same team. That year he was named the World Hockey Associations Most Valuable Player.
Now 82, Howe has become an active member of the Arthritis Foundation, and attends many events put on by the foundation.
Speedskater Kristine Holzer was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 13. Like many people with the disease, she looked to low impact sports as an outlet. She took up rowing and excelled in the sport, taking second place at the 1998 United States Senior National Team Trials.
After being overlooked for a spot in the 1998 World Rowing Championships, Holzer took up speedskating at the age of 24. She attended the 2006 Winter Olympic Games where she earned 27th place in the 3000 meters, and fifth place with the U.S. team in the womens Team Pursuit.