Sports and Activities Overview

As a teen living with spondylitis, you may already be - or want to become - involved in sports and other activities at school. In this section you will find general guidelines for sports and activities, information on the crucial role exercise plays in your treatment program, including the benefits of exercise and general exercise guidelines.

We asked Katlin, Tyler, Brian to answer some questions about their experiences with sports and other activities.

What are your favorite sports to participate in? Why?

  • Tyler: Swimming is a low impact sport that doesn't stress your joints the way other sports can. I usually feel better after a swim workout. If you're feeling stiff and a little sore, try swimming freestyle or backstroke. Swimming can help increase your mobility and flexibility.
  • Brian: Swimming, because I can yell in the water and no one can hear me (dealing with pain) and it's a fun sport to do.
  • Katlin: My favorite sports are water polo and swimming. I love to swim, and other sports I had been playing were causing me to have a lot of joint problems due to the impact of running and jumping. In fact, this August I will compete in the Junior Olympics with my club water polo team.
  • Christine: Swimming - because its very relaxing and I don't really have to do much. Ice skating - It is fun to go with friends.

Are there any sports you avoid? Why?

  • Tyler: Except for swimming, I haven't found any other sport I can do without pain. Video games aren't a sport, right? My friends are always trying to get me to go paintballing with them, which makes me hurt for days afterward. Any activity that requires running, jumping, chasing or being chased I pay for it later in pain. The problem is that it's so much fun! Sometimes, I go ahead and join my friends, knowing I'll have the time of my life, but then I have to deal with the pain later. Some activities are worth the pain and some are not. You have to weigh the pros and cons when you're deciding what to do.
  • Brian: Well I've been swimming for 5- years. So I haven't done any other sports. But I try to avoid running for right now b/c I'm in pain a lot lately.
  • Katlin: I have had to make difficult decisions to stop competing in softball, volleyball, and basketball. I decided to avoid these purely because the night after competing, I was in severe pain throughout my body.

What other extracurricular activities are you involved in?

  • Tyler: I'm involved in National Honor Society, which requires lots of community service hours. I volunteer at a public TV station, answering phones and taking pledges during telethons. I also tutor students in math and work as a volunteer at local swim meets. In the summer, I teach swim lessons at my high school. The pay is good, and I get to share my skills with young kids.
  • Brian: Key Club, German Club, Video for Church, Community Services, Church Youth Group.
  • Katlin: Key club, Assisteens, Model United Nations, Academic Decathlon, Choir, Club water polo, House manager for drama productions

Do you have any tips for participating in sports and activities with spondylitis?

  • Tyler: Let your coach know about any flare-ups or limitations you might have. I've learned from experience that it's better to be honest and up-front about it. Otherwise, your spondylitis may cause your coach to think you're unreliable, lazy, or someone who's not a team player.
  • Brian: It may sound corny, but don't give up on your dream if it's in a sport/activities, it's very hard getting back into the flow into it again. Trust me.
  • Katlin: Communication with the coach is key. Sometimes, they may think you are just complaining to get out of the hard workout, but if you know that it will end up hurting you, it isn't worth it tell them that your condition will not allow you to do whatever it is. In my case, when the coach tells us to swim butterfly, I will remind him and ask if I can do an alternate stroke, like breaststroke. Other times, some teammates will badger me and ask why I get to get out of doing some of the difficult sets. In that case, I just let them know that I have AS and do what I can, and psychologically I don't let it get to me.

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