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My story: Veronika

A football injury in the '90s before knee rehabilitation was a "thing"

Photo of a brown-haired female football goalie in a yellow t-shirt walking in front of a football goal. There are players in the background behind her.

When 15-year-old soccer player Veronika injured her right knee during a game, no one informed her about the risks of developing future knee problems. Within the soccer club, there was no preventive training or knee-stabilizing exercises for players—practices that sports clubs today constantly emphasise to prevent knee injuries among young athletes. There was also no mention of Veronika starting rehabilitation or tailored exercises after her knee injury to strengthen the muscles around the knee and prevent other issues. Instead, the pressure was on for her to return to the soccer field as soon as possible.

Back then, rehabilitation wasn’t discussed; it was all about rest, taping, and getting back in the game once the swelling subsided.

It wasn’t until 10 years later that Veronika began experiencing knee stiffness, swelling, and pain. Surprisingly, it was the same knee she had injured at 15 that now caused problems after all those years. Veronika sought medical care and, after an MRI scan, was diagnosed with pre-osteoarthritis and a meniscus tear. Following an arthroscopy and meniscus trimming, Veronika started her rehabilitation—a chance she never had as a teenager. Apart from rehabilitation, she received very little information about her condition or how to prevent it from worsening over time.

I didn’t receive any guidance on how to plan ahead; I was simply told to stop running and contact sports. Instead, I received restrictions and advice to maintain a healthy weight.

Unable to remain as active as she had been her whole life, Veronika fell into depression. Without education about osteoarthritis and advice on adapted exercise forms, she felt helpless.

It took a while before I could shift my mindset, accept the situation, and work with the new circumstances.

She gradually resumed exercise through cycling and strength training, but fear and lack of knowledge accompanied her. Not knowing how to adapt her training to her diagnosis led to incorrect joint loading, resulting in not only knee issues but also hip problems.

After years of training without proper information or support, constantly dealing with pain, swelling, and stiffness, she finally feels she has found a balance that works. Now 42 years old, Veronika knows much more about osteoarthritis and what it means to live with the condition. She believes that today’s more open discussions about osteoarthritis make it easier to find information.

Despite her more pronounced osteoarthritis, Veronika manages her daily life well, engaging in strength training and cycling to strengthen her thigh muscles. When needed, she takes Ibuprofen or Naproxen for pain relief.

She emphasises the importance of finding the right balance in exercise for osteoarthritis. Exercising too intensely can cause knee swelling and stiffness, but not exercising at all is equally detrimental to managing osteoarthritis symptoms.

Veronika now realises that she was in another risk group for developing osteoarthritis, as her father also suffers from the disease. Due to her young age, she worries about the future:

What will it be like in another 10 years? Will I be able to keep osteoarthritis in check with the exercises I do today?

However, she acknowledges that worrying and stressing are not helpful for pain management, as they exacerbate symptoms when mental well-being is compromised."

What has helped Veronika the most in living with her osteoarthritis is knowledge about the disease and exercise—the recommended foundational treatment for all osteoarthritis patients. Additionally, focusing on a healthy diet and talking to others in similar situations has made her daily life a little easier. By sharing her story and experiences, she hopes to help others facing similar challenges.



The picture is generic and is not linked to the person in the text.