Athletes are often considered healthy on several levels, but their active lifestyles come with risks. One of these risks is the development of arthritis that affects almost 10 to 15% of athletes. Sports that require doing a lot of turning and twisting can overwork the joints and lead to osteoarthritis. Sometimes, a sustaining trauma can also lead to it. 

Osteoarthritis develops when the cartilage or rubber cushion that surrounds the joints and protects them, gets damaged. As a result, the bones start to rub against each other causing more damage and injury. Common sports injuries that include knee injuries, sprains, cartilage tears, dislocations, or fractures may trigger post-traumatic arthritis.

Arthritis can be prevented by nourishing the cartilage. Some of the sports or exercises like walking, swimming, or biking may help to prevent it. Keep on reading to know the role of sports injuries in arthritis development and the prevention tips. 

Sports Injuries & Arthritis 

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage is worn down. As a result, it causes swelling, pain, and stiffness. Sports are blamed for arthritis. However, participating in sports never causes arthritis directly. Yet, performing a repetitive motion that causes strain and injures the joints can contribute to arthritis development in athletes. 

High-intensity sports such as jogging, dancing, football, gymnastics, basketball, or tennis are holding the potential chances of causing osteoarthritis. An injury to the cartilage or joint sustained while playing these sports could lead to arthritis in some cases. Nevertheless, the injury should be specific. 

The common sports injuries that contribute to arthritis development include:

Direct Cartilage Injury 

Cartilage is the connective tissue found on the surface of the joints. It remains well-protected unless an injury occurs. A direct hit or forceful blow to the joints can injure the cartilage. As it breaks down, it no longer helps to reduce the friction in the joints. Over time, the bone starts to rub against each other causing more damage.

When the cartilage is damaged, it causes severe pain, swelling, and inflammation. This can lead to arthritis development in athletes as there’s friction in their bones. Besides, if left untreated, it may lead to immobility where people lose their ability to walk. Therefore, it could require immediate medical attention. 

Ligament Injuries 

The ligament is the tough tissue that helps to connect the bones. There are four types of ligaments found in the knee that are prone to sports injury. This includes the anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament, lateral collateral ligament, and posterior cruciate ligament. One of the most common ligament injuries is the ACL tear

Anterior cruciate ligament or ACL connects the shin bone and thigh bone. If the ACL is torn due to an injury, the knee joint partially dislocates. A partial dislocation is also known as subluxation. It can lead to arthritis by damaging the cartilage cell. This injury puts a lot of people on the sideline and limits their physical capability as it hurts a lot.


Dislocations can damage the cartilage each time when the joint dislocates. For instance, if a patient is suffering from shoulder dislocations then it can cause damage to the cartilage every time when the shoulder comes out of its joint. This is the reason why surgeons repair the injured shoulder instantly to prevent repeated dislocations. 

Shoulder dislocations are the most common type of dislocation injury. Some of the heavy-impact contact sports such as football or basketball can contribute to this factor. It can be painful as the affected joint area can become unstable to move. Dislocations also tear or strain the surrounding nerves, muscles, tendons and lead to arthritis. 


A fracture occurs due to high force impact. The majority of sports that contribute to fractures include bike riding, skateboarding, or skiing. Sometimes, stress fractures occur in the foot due to repetitive activities of the bones. The feet and legs remain at the highest risk of getting a fracture as a result of acute sports trauma and repetitive stress. 

If there’s a fracture to the bone near the joints that supports the cartilage, it can force the cartilage to heal unevenly on the surfaces of the joints.  Further, this can lead to the development of arthritis of the joint as the cartilage wearing is accelerated over time. 

How to Manage Arthritis in Athletes?

According to NIH or the National Institutes of Health, arthritis occurs mostly in older people. Nonetheless, it can develop early in some athletes who have sustained an injury to the joint. In fact, young athletes are at higher risk of developing arthritis before they hit 40 years of age than their peers who’re not involved in high-impact sports. 

This post-traumatic osteoarthritis is referred to the occurrences where the person has suffered one or more injuries. There are ways to manage arthritis in athletes. Patients who show early signs of arthritis should focus on maintaining their fitness by muscle strengthening and weight management. 

The ways to manage arthritis in athletes include:

  • Maintain fitness to minimize joint pain and stress by involving in low-impact exercises like cycling, swimming, or walking. 
  • Avoid returning to an activity unless the sports injury is completely healed. 
  • Use physical therapy for improving joint function. 

Arthritis can be managed by keeping the muscles strong and keeping the weight down. Furthermore, it’s a wise idea to stay connected with orthopedic doctors for consultation. 

Can CBD Help With Arthritis?

CBD is the active compound found in cannabis plants. It’s extracted from legal hemp plants that contain a THC content of less than 0.03%. Animal studies have shown that CBD contains anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties that may help reduce arthritis pain. 

Although a trial of CBD for arthritis of the knee has been conducted, still it remains in its abstract form. Therefore, more quality studies should be conducted to validate the effects of CBD to reduce the symptoms of arthritis.