When he was young, Wilhelm Kraatz suffered a serious knee injury which subsequently developed into osteoarthritis. That didn’t stop him from pursuing his passion, track and field athletics. He’s still successful in this area at his age. Find out what part his orthosis plays in this.
Swimming, gymnastics, handball, volleyball, table tennis: sports and all kinds of exercise have always been a part of Wilhelm Kraatz’ life. His biggest passion from the beginning, however, was track and field athletics. Now in his late 70s, he still pursues this sport – despite osteoarthritis in the left knee.
Kraatz’ knee problems started early, with a sports injury during pole vaulting. During a landing, his left knee was pushed outward, and his medial meniscus tore. He underwent surgery, where part of his meniscus was removed. “Competitive sports were off the table for a while,” Kraatz remembers. However, he couldn’t be stopped from taking part in sports altogether over the subsequent years. “I managed to stay relatively fit with moderate exercise such as running and volleyball.”
I tried to counteract muscle loss with exercise.
„As a performance-oriented athlete, it's not that easy for me. I can't just sit down and read a book. I have to get out and move.“
Exercise despite osteoarthritis
When he was in his mid-40s, Kraatz moved to the north of Germany where he found a new sporting home at TSV Bargteheide sports club. This where he rediscovered high-intensity sports. “I had the chance to return to track and field athletics training and to take part in competitions,” Kraatz reports.
However, his left knee still caused problems. The joint suffered lasting damage from his sporting injury when he was young, resulting in the development of osteoarthritis of the knee over the years. In addition, the joint damage meant he could no longer put as much load on the left leg as before, resulting in a tendency to lose muscle. As an athlete, Kraatz knew the importance of exercise – especially in cases of osteoarthritis, despite the pain. “I tried to counteract muscle loss with exercise. Because the only way muscles will not waste is if they are stimulated,” Kraatz says. “I mainly got involved with gymnastics, Pilates and exercise classes.” This is how Kraatz managed to maintain relative stability in his knee.
Wearing his GenuTrain OA also helps. This orthosis ensures stability and alleviates knee pain. “In the beginning, I used to wear lightweight knee supports, but they eventually stopped doing their job. So my orthopedist suggested an orthosis,” Kraatz reports. “My knee does feel a lot better and more secure with it. Pain has also significantly decreased.” He mainly wears his GenuTrain OA during everyday activities and when his knee is subjected to light strain, such as walking longer distances or during training, but also in competitions.
Sporting activities keep me mentally and physically fit.
What are the benefits of an orthosis in cases of osteoarthritis of the knee?
The athlete particularly likes the fact that the GenuTrain OA is elastic and that the leg muscles are stimulated when he wears the orthosis. Thanks to its light weight and breathable 3D mesh knit, the orthosis, which was specifically developed for patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee, fits very comfortably. At the same time, it ensures noticeable relief on the inside and outside of the knee. This markedly reduces pains, allowing the wearer to be active for longer. A dial also enables the patient to change the degree of relief, thus easily adapting the orthosis to different activities – for example, going for a walk, hiking or training.
“It’s important to stay active, to listen to your body and to check how much the knee can cope with,” Kraatz reports. With the orthosis, will power and enthusiasm for exercise, Kraatz still has sporting success to celebrate at his age: this includes two runner’s up world championship titles, European championships in senior track and field athletics and the title in the German throws pentathlon championships for the age range M75, which consists of hammer, shot put, discus, javelin and weight throws. Additionally, Kraatz has been an instructor of a senior citizens’ track and field athletics group for 25 years. He also does gymnastics regularly. “Sporting activities keep me mentally and physically fit,” Kraatz says.
Staying mobile at an older age
The senior citizen and competitive athlete recommends staying active to everyone, even at an older age. “Our bodies are not made for sitting around on the couch,” Kraatz emphasizes. “The less you do, the quicker decay sets in.” It’s not about achieving top performance – it’s important to challenge your muscles, get the circulation going and to maintain mobility.
In particular, this is the case for people suffering from osteoarthritis – especially those who adopt a posture to help relieve the knee pain. Getting physically active can be achieved gradually. Kraatz recommends starting with gentle exercise, such as going cycling as often as possible or trying out gymnastics and Pilates – it’s best to join a group. “We can all improve how active we are,” Kraatz says with certainty. “And that’s even easier in a group.” In the beginning in particular, it’s best not to demand too much from yourself and not to be discouraged by initial exhaustion or some aching muscles. Patients suffering from osteoarthritis will quickly realize how beneficial regular activities and moderate exercise is at an older age. After all, exercise shouldn’t be a chore. Kraatz knows: “The most important thing is to enjoy yourself!”
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