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For older amateur players, tennis is a great excuse to get out of the house for a few hours and do something fun and active with friends or a spouse. However, as many athletes age, the effects of knee pain and stiffness are enough to make them hang up their rackets for good. The primary culprit for this pain and stiffness is arthritis in the joints of the knee.

Bracing: A well-fitted knee brace is designed to limit the hyperextension of the knee that often occurs in tennis. Hyperextension and overuse injuries can often cause the symptoms of arthritis to become more severe. Braces fall into different categories, depending upon the severity of injury or if the athlete has undergone surgery.

Commonly, an “unloader” brace is used for patients with arthritis in the knee. This type of brace is custom fitted for the athlete and unloads stress on a specific part of the knee joint where the arthritis is more severe by pushing the weight towards the less affected side. This can be very effective for an athlete who has pain just on the inside part of the knee and varus alignment (bowlegged).

Physical Therapy: A good physical therapy regimen will strengthen and stretch the proper muscles to minimize the pain as a result of arthritis. The quadricep muscles and the hip flexor muscles play a very important role in the range of motion in the knee joint and are often a large focus of when treating knee arthritis. Second, the physical therapist will help retrain the athlete to utilize better biomechanical movements in the leg. These improved motions place less stress on the knee joints, which reduces and helps prevent further inflammation.

Viscosupplementation: This treatment is a non-surgical injection of a lubricating fluid (hyaluronic acid) into the arthritic areas of the knee in an effort to increase range of motion and reduce pain. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring component of the fluid surrounding the joints and is what creates the smooth gliding surface for the joints. As the joints become deteriorated or weakened, the concentration of this fluid becomes less. The result is increased friction between the joints, leading to pain and inflammation of the knee joints.

Viscosupplementation can provide 6-12 months of pain relief when effective and is often used as an alternative to surgery. If these injections are effective in reducing pain, they can be repeated every 6 months.

The physicians at Total Orthopedics and Sports Medicine focus on both the surgical and non-surgical treatment of Long Island athletes with bone and joint injuries.  Dr. Charles Ruotolo, President of Total Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, regularly conducts injury prevention seminars for athletic trainers and coaches in an effort to help players avoid injury.

Fortunately, many patients can be treated non-surgically with a combination of conservative modalities coordinated by the Total Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Team. If surgery is necessary, the practice uses a multidisciplinary approach to create a treatment plan that focuses on the patient’s lifestyle and activities and helps them get back to those activities quickly and effectively.  Total Orthopedics and Sports Medicine has locations throughout Long Island.