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Declining Athletic Performance? Could it be Lyme Disease?

By: Nicole Skipper, ATC

Has your child’s athletic performance been suffering and you can’t figure out why? Are they suffering from fatigue, headache, lack of appetite, neck stiffness and muscle pain? Are they developing arthritis in their knees and feet with intermittent or chronic pain? Do they feel like they’re in a fog? You may want to talk to your pediatrician about the possibility of Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is the most common disease in the northern hemisphere that is spread through the bite of an insect. Transmitted by ticks, Lyme disease is on the rise in the United States – typically concentrated in the Northeast and upper Midwest.

Olympic halfpipe skier Angeli Vanlaanen battled a mysterious illness that started as fatigue, and progressed to blurry vision and chronic joint pain. Competitively, Vanlaanen would alternate from being a top finisher to barely finishing at all. Her changing symptoms and lack of response to treatment confused her physicians and led them to refer her to counseling, believing it was all in her head. It wasn’t until a close relative recommended a film about Lyme disease that Vanlaanen would finally achieve her correct diagnosis.

Team USA triathlete Pamela O’Kane competed regularly in swimming, biking and running. After years of training, she began to lose weight and muscle mass. She developed facial pain, jaw problems, difficulty speaking, trouble walking, twitching in her face, and tingling in her arms and legs. After several diagnoses, including one giving her only months to live, she was prescribed antibiotics for an ear infection. When the antibiotics cleared all her symptoms, new medical tests were done and a definitive diagnosis of Lyme disease was made.

There are many similar stories of both athletes and non-athletes who were able to return to their daily activities after finding the right diagnosis and treatment for their symptoms. Lyme disease can be diagnosed symptomatically and by special blood tests.

To prevent Lyme disease this spring and summer, always use tick repellent when out enjoying all that nature has to offer, and be sure to check skin thoroughly for ticks when you get home.  

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About CHKD Sports Medicine

About CHKD Sports Medicine  CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.