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Mickey Mantle: playing hardball against arthritis.

MICKEY MANTLE: Playing hardball against arthritis

Most sports fans don't know that arthritis may have cut short one of the greatest careers in baseball. Mickey Mantle, nicknamed the "home run hitter" for the incredible 536 homers he scored as a switch-hitter with the New York Yankees during the 1950s and '60s, ended his career at the relatively young age of 36 because of recurring injuries to his knees. Those injuries were the precursor of osteoarthritis.

Mantle's problems started early in his career. In 1951, during his first year with the Yankees, he fell trying to catch a fly ball in the outfield. Arthroscopic surgery wasn't available at that time, and Mantle spent six months with his leg in a cast. The rest of his career was plagued with re-injury and stints on the disabled list. Nevertheless, he earned baseball's prestigious Triple Crown and the Hickock belt for the top professional athlete in the US before he finally hung up his cleats in 1969.

Mantle knew he was in pain, but he didn't know he had arthritis for many years. Ironically, it was his love for another sport that finally prompted him to seek treatment. "I didn't know what caused the pain. I thought I was just getting old," he says. "But it just kept getting worse and worse. It finally got so bad I couldn't even play golf, and that's when I knew I had to do something about it."

So, in 1986, Mantle saw his doctor, was finally diagnosed with osteoarthritis, and started a comprehensive treatment program. In addition to prescribing a new non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, Mantle's physician showed him range-of-motion and strengthening exercises he could do to improve the movement in his affected knee.

"Now I can play golf a couple of times a week again, and I can do the everyday things like climbing stairs," says Mantle. "I wish I'd know sooner what the right treatment would do for me."

Mantle urges other Americans to learn from his experience. "Go to your doctor and get on a good treatment program," he says. "It made all the difference for me."

PHOTO : Finally getting appropriate treatment for his arthritis allowed Mickey Mantle to continue

PHOTO : playing golf, a sport he enjoys almost as much as baseball."

COPYRIGHT 1989 Arthritis Foundation, Inc.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:McDaniel, Cindy T.
Publication:Arthritis Today
Date:May 1, 1989
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