The Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team has lost one of their outfielders to a form of inflammatory arthritis. Franklin Gutierrez signed with the Dodgers and was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) this year. While Gutierrez is likely acutely aware of the effects of his disease, the media has not provided much information about this more common than a rare form of inflammatory arthritis.
The LA Times recently published an article covering the story: “Rare condition sends Dodgers’ Franklin Gutierrez to the disabled list“. Calling AS a “condition” discredits the fact that inflammatory arthritis is autoimmune in nature – like multiple sclerosis, type I diabetes and lupus – and disables people if not appropriately diagnosed and treated. The Arthritis Foundation states there are roughly 500,000 people in America that live with AS and the back pain associated with it. It also is a type of arthritis that affects men more than women – specifically males in their teens and twenties.
The issue with AS is that it takes on average seven years for men to be appropriately diagnosed; for women, 10 years. Because it strikes young people, symptoms – like chronic pain in the low back, Achilles tendon, and peripheral joints such as knees and in the hands (primarily in women) – are often ignored for years and written off as being “sports injuries” or simply “over doing it”. It is common for people to live with AS for years before they are properly diagnosed.
Gutierrez is one of the lucky few who has intensive treatment consisting of medication, diet, stretching, and massages from the LA Dodgers’ staff as stated in the LA Times article; still, this disease has forced him to sit out. Hopefully, more insight into examples like this can bring to light that autoimmune diseases like Gutierrez’s AS are far from rare, and are serious.