April 13, 2010
Posted: 04:52 PM ET
Baseball is a game of immortals. Untouchables. From 1888's "Casey at the Bat" to Bob Dylan's "Catfish" and Fogerty's "Centerfield", the rhapsodizing of the game and its heroes endures. From "Pride of the Yankees" to "Field of Dreams," Hollywood looks to one sport more than any other for its silver screen magic.
The game and its heroes have an aura of timelessness and invincibility. The best of the best- the true untouchables- are few in number. The list of living legends is even smaller, and the best living player usually comes down to two names- Willie Mays and one Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron.
In this day of inflated statistics (and inflated bodies) in baseball, Aaron still holds the record for career RBI (2,297) and extra base hits. He made the All-Star team every year from 1955 to 1975. He held the career home run record of 755 until Barry Bonds broke that record just three years ago.
Yet even immortals are vulnerable. A few years into retirement, Hammerin' Hank noticed lingering pain in his knee. And it only got worse. "I play golf and hack it like the rest of us. I hit one ball in the sand trap and I had to have someone to almost pull me out of the trap. Its gets to be an embarrassing situation. You know I was an athlete I don’t need all this help."
Then came the real warning signs. "My first sign of trouble when I was trying to drive from my home to the office which is at the ball field which is only ten minutes away. And the more I was putting my foot down on the accelerator my legs would start paining, I was having knee problems. And I said, “whoa this is kind of freakish.” Cause I’ve got to be able to drive." Soon after, he would be diagnosed with a debilitating ailment.
Knee osteoarthritis (OA) can happen to anyone, including Hank Aaron. Until now, Hank's battle with osteoarthritis of the knee has been kept on the sidelines. Yet, in hopes of helping the 10 million Americans with the condition, Hank has teamed up with the drug company Genzyme, and orthopedic surgeon and author Dr. Nick DiNubile to launch "Get Back in the Game." The program encourages the millions of people suffering with OA knee pain to take action now and to talk to their doctor about treatment options.
As proof that he is truly "Back in the Game," Hank will walk in the Arthritis Walk on May 22, 2010 in Atlanta. He is encouraging others to support the fight against arthritis by joining www.teamhank.com. For every person who joins Hank's team, Genyzme will make a donation to the Arthritis Foundation.
Hank Aaron recently spoke with LKL producer Quinn Brown about living with his osteoarthritis, and his thoughts on the baseball season.
LKL: You were always a pretty fit player. How did this start?
Aaron: I’d been playing for 23 years and I’ve never been on the disabled list. I probably just ignored it I didn’t bother with it too much. Of course the more I was having to stop doing some of the things I wanted to do like play golf or tennis or walking and doing things with my grandkids I decided I needed to do something about it. And a friend of mine who was a orthopedic surgeon came up and said, “you know you can try the shot. One shot.” So I said why not try it. I tried everything else. So I tried this one and I have not had any problems since then. Of course I think it lasts six months and its only for the knee (the shot was Synvisc-One, manufactured by Genzyme).
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