- In their own words… – A blog from Lennie and Dianne about daily life with osteoarthritis.
- About Lennie and Dianne Rosenbluth – Meet our Honorary Co-Chairs!
In their own words…
A blog about daily life with osteoarthritis from Lennie and Dianne’s shared and independent perspectives. Inspiring, enlightening and just plain honest.
June 2018 – Lennie
Standing UP 2 OA in Basketball with Injury Prevention
Injury to the knee joint, such as an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture, can lead to osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee later in life. In fact, individuals with a history of knee injury are 3-6 times more likely than those without knee injury to develop knee OA, and almost half of individuals with an ACL injury will develop knee OA within 10 years. In this interview, we speak with basketball star and OAAA Honorary Co-Chair Lennie Rosenbluth on how basketball is Standup UP 2 OA!
When you played basketball, how did your coaches address injury prevention?
Preventing injuries was never really talked about when I was playing in the 1950s. Coach never discussed any injury prevention strategies. If someone twisted an ankle, we would tape it up, wait a few days, and then be right back in the game. There was no specific protocol for rehabilitation. We did do a little bit of cross training –with medicine balls, jump ropes, and the like, but never anything like a planned injury prevention program.
How have training programs changed since you played basketball?
The difference in training programs now is night and day. For one thing, the number of people working on the team to help prevent and treat injuries is vastly different. When I was playing we had a head coach and that was it –there was no trainer, no assistants, we taped our own ankles. Now, whenever you go to a game you see at least seven guys in suits out on the court working with the players.
The equipment that players use, like shoes, is very different too. When I played we wore Converse Allstar sneakers. We got one pair at the beginning of the year and then you couldn’t get another pair unless you proved why you needed one. Now, the shoes that players wear actually cushion their heels, they have multiple pairs for different kinds of training and playing, and they get new shoes frequently. They know the importance of that equipment for preventing injuries.
What challenges still remain to be addressed?
Despite all these advances in how coaches and teams think about and address injuries, I think that more players are getting injured now than when I was playing. Nowadays, players are just tremendously athletic – they move quicker, jump higher. Even though they are doing more to prevent injuries nowadays, they are still all too common, unfortunately. And players are paying for those injuries with osteoarthritis later in life.
April 2018 – Lennie and Dianne
Celebrating our Friends…and Celebrating with our Friends
A few weeks ago, we traveled to New York City for the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament. Every year, at this time we sit by the window at our favorite pizza place on 8thAvenue and we’re grateful for our continued health that lets us keep coming up to support the Tar Heels in this tournament! But even more than that, we are grateful for the continuing joy we get from spending time with our friends and family. As we reflect on the year since we were here in New York, our best memories are our times spent celebrating our friends…and celebrating with our friends.
One of our best memories with our friends is from last year’s NCAA Championship games when we and the same dedicated group gathered in our living room every game to cheer the Tar Heels all the way to victory. Everyone watched together –in the same seats because we wouldn’t want to jinx the Tar Heels by changing things around! Lennie even wore the same lucky shirt every game! When the Tar Heels finally won it all the whole room just went nuts. That was the best moment, being with our friends to celebrate a wonderful victory.
We also love celebrating our friends and family! This year, we have been especially proud to celebrate our grandchildren’s accomplishments. Our grandson just made the basketball team at his middle school, and our granddaughter is a talented actress. We were so happy to have the ability to travel to see her perform the lead in her school’s musical in December.
No matter what comes up, we believe that it’s so important to keep those connections with our friends and family. We walk with our friends to stay healthy, and as long we can go to see our family, we go. We keep moving…for our friends, for our family, and for more wonderful celebrations to come!
Dianne and Lennie Rosenbluth
Honorary Co-Chairs, Osteoarthritis Action Alliance
May 2017 – Lennie and Dianne
Staying in the Game… by Accepting our Limitations
Wow, what a busy couple of months! From celebrating the 60th anniversary of Lennie’s 1957 UNC championship basketball game to cheering on the Tar Heels as they won it all once more this April, we’ve been constantly on the move – and that’s definitely the way we like it. Sometimes, staying active like this is difficult for us. We both get pain and fatigue from osteoarthritis, which can make it hard to motivate ourselves to get up and walk. So today, we’d each like to share one of the most important lessons we’ve learned that have helped keep us moving and might help you, too.
LENNIE: One lesson I’ve taken to heart is that you can’t hold on to a loss – instead, you have to use it. I remember in 1956, when our team lost to Wake Forest in the semifinals of the ACC tournament. Coach use to remind us of that loss all the time, and we played better because of it. We didn’t let the disappointment keep us down; instead, we let it energize us and push us to play better. I think it’s the exact same way with osteoarthritis. I try not to let setbacks from arthritis, like pain or fatigue, keep me down –instead, I find my way to live with it. I may walk slower, but I keep pushing forward.
DIANNE: One lesson I’ve learned both from my own journey with osteoarthritis and from my friends and family is to give yourself permission to have limitations. Both Lennie and I are very active, but simultaneously, we give ourselves and each other permission not to participate on any given day. And we also allow ourselves to adapt our activities however we need to in order to participate. One of the inspirational people who taught me this was Lennie’s mother, who lived to be 100 and had serious arthritis in both of her knees. If we were going to the mall, she would go with us –all she needed was a cart to hold that helped her keep moving. We know that pain makes certain activities very hard to do, and finding those little adaptations can help you keep doing the things you love –which is the most important thing.
In many ways, having arthritis is a mental game – it means finding ways, despite our limitations, to show that we’re still in charge. For us, that means making any changes we need to make, like taking pain medication and walking slower, to keep doing the things we want to do. And it also means accepting that bad days will happen, refocusing, and keeping our eyes on the future.
Stay well…and keep moving,
Lennie and Dianne Rosenbluth
OA Action Alliance
January 2017 – Lennie and Dianne
(guest appearance by rescue labradoodle mix, Luke)
What can one basketball game teach us about living with osteoarthritis?
The New Year is a time for us all to look toward the future and ask ourselves what we want to change this year – and also what we want to do to ensure we remain active and “stay in the game.” New Year’s Resolutions are a chance for us to celebrate all the blessings in our lives, and to make goals to create even more positive outcomes for the coming year.
Like many of you, we both have osteoarthritis, so even though it’s not easy, one of our most important goals is to keep moving. Mind over body – that’s what arthritis is for us. We try to make exercise something we look forward to, so that even when our joints hurt, we can still get out and move!
One trick we like to use to keep motivated is to give ourselves something to look forward to at the end of a walk. Some mornings, we’ll meet a friend in a parking lot a mile from our favorite breakfast spot…there’s nothing like the promise of a delicious meal to motivate us to get walking. Having a friend to talk with helps, too. We’re getting exercise, and the time just flies by.
We’re also pretty sure our dog, Luke, knows about our exercise goals – and he won’t let us forget them! Luke is our dear rescue labradoodle mix. He’s a treasure for us and very brave – he’s not afraid of thunder and lightning or the dark!! He follows one of us everywhere, is just plain lovable and very attached. Sometimes we try to just take him outside for a bit in the morning instead of taking him for a walk, but he won’t let us get away with that. If he knows we’re not busy (and he definitely knows), he won’t budge until we get his leash and go walking with him. Having a pet helps us stay active, because he’s just wonderful at demanding those walks from us.
Of course, along with our exercise routine, we have another New Year’s Resolution: cheering the Carolina Basketball team to victory. Last year, we went to Houston for the National Championship, where Villanova edged them out in the last second of the game. After the defeat, we were waiting in the hotel lobby to cheer the team when they arrived. One player’s mom leaned over to us and said, “They’ll be fine tomorrow.” We looked at each other, and we both thought, “they sure will.” It’ll be a challenge to get them back to the championship, but we’ll be cheering them on every game along the way.
In many ways, that basketball game last year reminded us of our own struggles with osteoarthritis. Arthritis is unpredictable, and sometimes, we’re going to have bad days. Some days, while walking down the steps, one of us will feel a leg starting to get weak, and we feel like we may fall. But what can we do? We have to hold on, stay safe, and keep going. Just like for the Carolina basketball team, tomorrow’s another day. We pick ourselves up, we stay thankful for our health, and we keep moving forward.
Lennie & Dianne Rosenbluth
OA Action Alliance
June 2016 – Lennie
In this interview, we speak with legendary basketball star and OAAA Honorary Co-Chair, Lennie Rosenbluth, who shares his personal story and helps shed light on how he manages to stay active, even with osteoarthritis (OA).
Basketball has been a significant part of your life. Can you tell us about your rather unusual path to basketball fame?
When I was 13 years old, my dad took me to a game in Madison Square Garden. It was City College of New York vs. New York University, and there as a friendly rivalry and excitement that resembles UNC vs. Duke games today. It was the first basketball game I’d ever seen and I thought, “Hey, that looks great, I might like that.” The next day in gym class I picked up a basketball for the first time and had no idea what to do with it. I dribbled the ball with two hands and my shooting was ridiculous. I tried out for my 7th, 8th, and 9th grade teams and didn’t make it. So I went to the park every afternoon trying to figure out what to do. Believe it or not, I didn’t make my 10th grade or 11th grade teams, either, but I loved the game so I didn’t get discouraged. Finally, I was called to play in the second half of my junior year, but in my senior year, there was a coach’s strike so I started playing with former college and professional players around New York City instead. In fact, I only played in six to eight high school games before playing in college.
So with almost no formal coaching or traditional game playing, you ended up at UNC and lead the team to winning a National Championship in 1957. That’s very impressive!
In my senior year of high school, I was able to get into Madison Square Garden through the players entrance but I didn’t have a seat. A friend of mine was friends with [former UNC coach] Frank McGuire and saw me walking around looking for a seat. He pulled me over to sit next to him in McGuire’s seat. So I met McGuire that day as well as Coach Buck Freeman [McGuire’s assistant coach]. It was an incredibly lucky break and as a result of that meeting I eventually wound up having a chance to play at UNC.
The first time I really had any significant formal coaching was at Carolina with Coach McGuire. All I knew how to do was to get the ball and go for the score. I was very fortunate that Coach McGuire let me play how I had learned to play. I’m very grateful. I also was very lucky to have tremendous teammates who believed in me. They were the greatest teammates anybody could have.
You played professionally for a period of time and then became a coach. Was that an easy transition for you?
I went into the NBA but it was not a good experience for me. It just wasn’t my game. Also, at that time, the average NBA salary was $5,000 per year so it wasn’t what it is today. After 2 years, I wasn’t having fun anymore so I left the game and never looked back.
I went on to coach high school basketball and I knew I’d found my niche. I coached the way McGuire coached, and the kids were great. I just told them to practice, practice, practice, but also to have fun. It’s a game. If you lose, you lose, no big deal. The game has gotten much more competitive over the years but I think having the right outlook and keeping things in perspective remains essential.
You have maintained close ties with the UNC Basketball program. How do you think basketball has changed from when you were a player?
Kids today are much stronger, better developed, and so much quicker than we were. Their athleticism is unbelievable, especially at the collegiate level.
Proper training is vital for any sport to improve players’ physical condition and skills, but also to prevent injury. We know that injury prevention is a key factor in preventing osteoarthritis. How has physical training and conditioning evolved since you played?
We didn’t train like they do today. We mainly just ran to get in shape, and weight training wasn’t encouraged. Before practice or a game we just warmed up a bit then we played. We certainly weren’t thinking about injury or protecting joints. Many players paid for it later in life. Training is entirely different now.
Do you think that due to improved training techniques we are seeing fewer injuries now?
Believe it or not, even though training has improved greatly, there are probably more injuries overall today because the game is so competitive. Players are finely tuned and they train well but in my personal opinion, injuries are more severe and tend to last longer. That said, I think coaches are also more aware of the health risks now and do a good job of not sending injured players back into the game until they are cleared by their doctor.
Although you were lucky not to have significant injuries from sports, nonetheless, you have osteoarthritis. What has your experience with osteoarthritis been like, and how does it impact your life?
Osteoarthritis affects my knees, and in my case I would say it’s from wear and tear. I played on concrete courts for many years until I got to college, which is very unforgiving. Fortunately, I don’t need a knee replacement. About every three months my knees start to hurt enough that I need cortisone shots, and that does help reduce the pain. Standing for long periods of time and bending over to pick things up are hard on my knees. I avoid walking up stairs, too, because I know my limitations and have learned to modify my activities.
My wife and I have remained very active. We have an energetic Labradoodle that keeps us moving every day. We also travel a lot, largely in order to watch games. We went to the Maui Invitational college basketball tournament three years ago. This year, we were in Houston for the NCAA Championship, and you wouldn’t believe how steep the steps are in the Houston arena! We visit New York City and go to shows and walk around. We see our grandchildren in Florida. As long as we’re able to go, we go.
Any words of advice for those who are also living with osteoarthritis?
It’s important to find ways to still do what you enjoy, and stay as active as possible. You should also make sure your doctor is aware of your physical activities. The worst thing you can do is to be inactive, so even if it hurts a little, keep being active. Don’t ever let arthritis get you down and continue to find ways to have fun! Because in life, as with basketball, having a positive attitude and making sure you have fun makes a tremendous difference.
March 2016 – Dianne
You’ve probably heard the saying, “We only have today.” To me, those words are more than a mantra. They are a road map for life.
Like many of you, I have arthritis, but it doesn’t “have” me, and I’m determined to take each day as it comes. In fact, my husband Lennie and I both have arthritis, but through trial and error we have found many ways to keep living our lives to the fullest despite some limitations – and we are doing all that we can to encourage others to do the same.
For example, I was recently at a social event and when music started playing a family member who uses a walker said she wanted to dance. I suggested she come “sway with me,” but she said, “Not me, I’m going to dance!” She managed to dance in her own way, and had a wonderful time. I was inspired by her positive attitude.
I realize that having arthritis can be tough. Really tough at times. But to me, it’s sort of like sports. It’s a head, heart and hand game. You will feel better if you keep positive thoughts in your head, you follow your heart and try your best to pursue what you’re passionate about, and you keep your hand in the game by staying active.
It’s also important to be patient with yourself. Sometimes little actions lead the way to better outcomes. For example, there are days when I go to the gym and am very stiff. I don’t feel like being there but I know if I don’t work out I’ll feel worse than if I give it my best shot. So I start off taking it really easy. Soon I’m making more and more progress, and beginning to feel better.
Now, I realize that pain from arthritis can make a person not want to move. But whatever your goals, if you take just one little step, you can usually take one more step. You keep moving. Before you know it, you’ve accomplished more than you thought you would. And that’s something to feel proud of.
Because arthritis symptoms change from day to day and year to year, it’s crucial to remain open minded. To me, arthritis is like an unwelcome house guest. It shows up uninvited, but it’s there to stay. So I can get angry or discouraged, or I can accept it. When I leave the house to go shopping I know this unwelcome guest is going be with me in the car. But it doesn’t have to sit in the front seat. I can do my best to put it in the backseat so it’s not as distracting. And I focus on the fact that I’m still going where I want to go.
It’s also essential to educate yourself about your condition. Find online resources such as the ones on the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance website, read about ways to manage your condition, and come up with a list of questions to ask the doctor at your next visit.
Start today! Find a way to do just one thing that will give you a feeling of accomplishment. And reach out to encourage one other person, even if it’s just a quick phone call, or sending an email to a friend who needs a little extra support. You’ll feel better. They’ll feel better. And you’ll be letting that unwelcome houseguest know you are still going to pursue your goals.
Be well…and keep moving,
Osteoarthritis Action Alliance
About Lennie and Dianne Rosenbluth
The OA Action Alliance is excited to introduce, Lennie and Dianne Rosenbluth, who will help raise awareness nationally for osteoarthritis.
Collegiate basketball fans will remember Lennie from his award-winning years on the UNC men’s basketball team. Most notably, Lennie led the 1957 team to a 32-0 season and UNC’s first NCAA national championship. He has since been listed among the “100 Greatest College Basketball Players of All Time.” Later in 1957, Lennie joined the NBA’s Philadelphia Warriors as a first-round draft pick. After retiring from basketball, he enjoyed many years as a high school teacher and basketball coach. Lennie has developed knee osteoarthritis, but it doesn’t seem to slow him down. He and Dianne regularly attend UNC home games and are making plans to travel to Washington, DC, for the 2016 ACC tournament.
Speaking of Dianne, she shares many interests with Lennie, including an unbridled passion for basketball (and football!), cheering on the Tar Heels year after year. Dianne is a native North Carolinian. Born in Charlotte, she moved to Chapel Hill to attend UNC and spent much of her professional career as a teacher before pursuing her interest in real estate. Dianne also has osteoarthritis, but her positive attitude and her sense of humor brighten the mood of anyone she meets.
Lennie and Dianne bring an interesting perspective to the OA Action Alliance. Their individual and shared experiences with osteoarthritis lend a dose of reality and encouragement to those who deal with the daily challenges of life with this degenerative joint disease. The Rosenbluths will be joining us in various efforts to raise awareness for osteoarthritis so be on the lookout for more in the spring. For now, we hope you will join us in welcoming Lennie and Dianne to the OA Action Alliance!