In the past 24 hours, two tennis stars have made “rheum” for some big announcements.
First, tennis legend Billie Jean King was announced as the star of the new Arthritis Foundation campaign to help fight arthritis pain. The new ads state that we “need a weapon in fighting arthritis” and asks fellow arthritis sufferers — “what’s yours?” So Billie Jean King, an arthritis patient herself, wants to know – what’s your weapon against arthritis? King, a 12-time Grand Slam singles winner and founder of World Team Tennis, is 67 years old and has battled OA (osteoarthritis) since her early 20’s. She had both of her knees replaced last year and is a big force behind arthritis awareness.
Arthritis is the leading cause for disability in the United States. So, what’s your weapon? King’s is tennis. The TV ads with Billie Jean King depict the superstar athlete playing tennis, with arthritis being her opponent. In one, Ms. King says, “Tennis is a weapon for me with arthritis. There’s nothing like it for me to hit a ball, run to the ball. Any time, any court, I’m ready, let’s go.”
Unfortunately, for Venus Williams, tennis wasn’t a strong enough weapon — at least for now. Now just 31 years old, she grew up playing tennis her whole life, but had to withdraw from the US Open recently due to a diagnosis of the rheumatic autoimmune condition, Sjogren’s Syndrome – widely accepted as a type of arthritis. Venus Williams had been battling debilitating fatigue, numbness, swelling, and joint pain for years now, and it finally got to the point where she had to take a break from playing tennis. Her and her sister Serena are among the most talented and famous tennis players in the world. Venus says that she “absolutely” plans on returning to tennis, but, for now, is taking it easy….even though her decision shocked the world of sports.
“I think I’ve had issues with Sjogren’s for a while. It just wasn’t diagnosed,” Williams said. “The good news for me is now I know what’s happening. I was having trouble with stamina. I had swelling and numbness and fatigue, which was really debilitating. I just didn’t have any energy, and it’s not that you don’t have energy; you just feel beat up.”
She said it wasn’t easy to drop out of the US Open, but said, “… I just felt like, ‘Okay, I could walk out on the court. I’m a tough woman, I’m a tough athlete, I’ve played through a lot of things.’ But what kind of match it would be? It was a tough decision, but at the same time I’ve had to come to accept what I’m going through. I’m just glad to finally have an explanation for her mysterious, debilitating symptoms. It’s a huge relief because as an athlete everything is physical for me — everything is being fit and being in shape,” she said. “I think the best thing that could have happened for me this summer was to feel worse so I could feel better.”
What an inspiring and positive outlook!
One can only hope that she gets her symptoms under control so that she can continue her stellar career, and fight arthritis on the tennis court alongside Billie Jean King. Sjogren’s has no cure, but, like many of these chronic pain, rheumatic, and autoimmune conditions, can be managed very well with proper medications, diet, exercise, and a healthful lifestyle of wellness.
While no one wants to see anyone else – famous or not – live with pain or sickness, it is nice, in a sense, that these two world-known athletes are making their voices heard and spreading awareness for arthritis and related conditions. Here’s wishing them many triumphs – on the court and off!
What’s YOUR weapon against arthritis?
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