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Teen Loves Soccer Despite Rheumatoid Arthritis

A July 23, 2015 Fox 35 report entitled “Teen’s Rheumatoid Arthritis No Setback for Love of Soccer” looks at Alana Rodriguez, a 14-year-old girl who regularly plays soccer despite being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis before the age of 1. Doctors said that Alana wouldn’t grow to be more than 4 feet tall, and most likely wouldn’t be able to walk, much less play soccer. However, Alana discovered a love for soccer at age 8 and began playing regularly, which doctors think helped her to manage her condition and overcome some of its limitations. Dr. Susan Baker, a rheumatologist in Los Angeles, discusses juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and how regular exercise can help keep the condition at bay. “Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis strikes at a young age, and the key to managing it is a combination of medications, exercise, and healthy eating,” said Dr. Baker. “Unfortunately, there is no cure, but with good management children with the condition should be able to live relatively normal lives. Alana is very lucky that she found a sport that she loves that helps her to push past her condition.”

Juvenile arthritis is actually a blanket term that covers all the autoimmune and inflammatory pediatric rheumatic diseases that can strike children. Each of these diseases is unique, but they share general symptoms such as joint pain and swelling, redness, and warmth. There are no known cures for juvenile arthritis, but with the right treatment plan it can be pushed into remission. The goal with juvenile arthritis treatments is to allow the child to lead as normal a life as possible.

“Relieving inflammation and controlling pain in order to improve the child’s quality of life are the main goals when dealing with juvenile arthritis,” explained Dr. Baker. “We want your child to be able to socialize normally with other children and remain physically active. In Alana’s case, it is likely that her regular soccer playing from an early age was key in allowing her to remain active and social as well as develop normally. Physical fitness and exercise are key components in any juvenile arthritis treatment plan.”

Rest and inactivity can make arthritis conditions worse, so it is important to maintain a regular exercise regimen, especially on days when there is relatively little pain. Swimming is a great sport for people with arthritis, as it is good exercise that doesn’t put a lot of strain on the body’s joints. Eating a healthy diet is also key to managing inflammation and flare-ups, as certain foods can cause inflammation while others help to calm it.

“Working closely with a rheumatologist to develop a comprehensive treatment and management plan is a good idea for any parent with a child suffering from juvenile arthritis,” said Dr. Baker. “Working with a therapist or joining a support group can also help parents and children deal with any emotional issues arising from the condition. In the end, each child is different, and it is important to customize treatment for your child that takes into account their personality and interests.”

Dr. Susan Baker is board-certified in both internal medicine and rheumatology. She has been providing exceptional and personalized care from her Beverly Hills facility since 2003. She is also a teacher and clinical instructor at Cedars Sinai Hospital and UCLA, David Geffen School of Medicine, respectively.
To learn more about Susan A. Baker MD, Rheumatology & Internal Medicine, please visit, or call (310) 274-7770.

Next, read about Juvenile Spondyloarthritis

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