Many people think the stick-figure families on the back windows of SUVs are pretty cute. But imagine them in real life—trying to run marathons, flipping gracefully and powerfully on uneven bars, running in for the game-winning touchdown, power lifting. Comical visions, indeed. Stick figures have no joints—and athletes need theirs to maintain their absolute integrity. This can be quite a challenge due to an athlete’s high-stress repetitive movements.
"What many athletes may not realize is that if their joints aren’t healthy, they may be unable to properly train or compete," said Victor Ferrari, CEO, Horphag Research. For example, if a runner has joint pain or stiffness, it affects his/her ability to train and build up to longer distances. "Athletes should also understand that joints naturally deteriorate with age, and without proper care and nutrition, they may reach severe pain levels and degradation that prevent them from physical activity."
According to Paul Dijkstra, president and CEO, InterHealth Nutraceuticals, reliable knee function and comfort are highly important for athletes of all types. "Maintaining knee joint function supports mobility, increases flexibility and may support the ability to exercise longer and more regularly. Knee extension, in particular, is important for all movements in sports such as running, jumping, kicking, lifting, lunging, etc. Maintaining knee health is important for everyone from a seasoned athlete to a casual exerciser."
Steve Holtby, president and CEO, Soft Gel Technologies Inc., explained the more complex a joint is, the more likely it will get injured from continual exercise and training; such physical activities are tough on cartilage, continually degrading through more intense wear and tear. Additionally, such activity is also tough on the synovial fluid. "Whenever the intensity of your exercise causes the rate of wear and tear to exceed the maximum rate at which you can produce new cartilage and synovial fluid, you get inflammation, pain and stiffness of the joints," he said.
Generally speaking, there are two types of athletes: those who excel in short bursts of power (think gymnasts and divers, running backs, long jumpers, power lifters), and those who are endurance specialists (long-distance runners, skiers, swimmers, basketball and hockey players, and cyclists). And of course, there are the hybrids (ironman triathletes, track and field). But what they all have in common is the acute stress placed on the major joints—shoulders, hips, knees—through rigorous and constant training to always push their own boundaries of achievement.
While the majority of widely known joint-support ingredients are backed by human clinical trials focused on populations with some degree of osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), there is growing evidence from these suppliers that the same ingredients confer attractive protective effects on joints in those people who are exceptionally physically active and for those who are conventionally active but without OA.
To read about research-backed joint health ingredients and their potential in the sports nutrition sector, read the article, “Smooth Moves: Why formulating joint-support for athletes and fitness enthusiasts makes sense," by Lisa Schofield in the free Digital Issue, Smooth Moves: Joint Health Support.