Fitness & Health, Sport & Exercise Science

Back in play

UK Premiership footballer Rory Delap, renowned for his devastating throw-in, has joined forces with a number of football heroes across Europe to support ‘Back in Play‘, a European wide campaign to reach young men and women and raise awareness of ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a poorly understood condition which can affect the lower back.

AS is a type of inflammatory arthritis, characterised by low back pain and stiffness, which is most common in young men.

The symptoms can be subtle and are often overlooked or confused with common back pain or sports injuries meaning it can take as long as 3-11 years to be accurately diagnosed.

The campaign, supported by the Ankylosing Spondylitis International Federation (ASIF,) kicked off with the launch of the Back in Play website. The site is home to an addictive football game with a competitive European league, which tests a player’s throw-in skills whilst highlighting the symptoms of AS that can differentiate it from other back pain.

In addition to watching a throw-in master class from Rory Delap, visitors to the site can review the AS symptom checklist compiled by ASIF, find out more information about the condition via patient and doctor interviews and links to patient support groups.

The Stoke City player, whose flexibility and back strength is key to his enviable skill, believes Back in Play can help raise awareness of this relatively unknown condition and its symptoms.

Lending his personal support to the initiative, Delap comments: “Most football fans will not have heard about AS, yet the statistics reveal that up to 1 in 200 people will have it.”

Reflecting on the importance of early diagnosis and treatment he continues: “It is understandable that some of the symptoms like lower back pain are often written off as a sports injury or bad posture, however there are some key subtleties such as the pain getting better with exercise and painful, red eyes, that can indicate AS.

Most commonly, but not exclusively found in young men, AS symptoms typically start in the late teens and early twenties, causing severe, chronic pain and discomfort.

“A lack of awareness of the condition and the gradual onset of symptoms means that it can take years for sufferers to get an accurate diagnosis, I believe 15 years in my own case,” said Seoirse Smith, President of the Ankylosing Spondylitis International Federation (ASIF). “I know from personal experience that the earlier the condition is diagnosed the better the outcome for the patient.

If AS is not correctly diagnosed or treated, over many years, the spine can become rigid as it may fuse together, and fixed in a bent position making it increasingly difficult to move around freely and undertake day-to-day activities with ease.”

Source: Medical News Today

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