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Venus Williams – Athletes and Sjogren’s Syndrome

best orthopedic surgeon in phoenix

Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams withdrew from this year’s Wimbledon Championships because of back injury directly associated with Sjogren’s Syndrome, and it has many in the orthopedic surgery field talking. Sjogrens’ Syndrome is essentially an autoimmune disorder, often accompanied by rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. It’s a difficult disorder to manage, especially if you’re a world-class athlete.

Sjogren’s Syndrome

According to, Sjogren’s Syndrome is a disorder of the immune system identified by its two most common symptoms – dry eyes and dry mouth. Sjogren’s Syndrome often accompanies other immune-system disorders, such as RA and lupus. 

Sjogren’s Syndrome is far more common in women. In fact, more than 90% of the reported cases are from women. It is difficult to manage, and highly debilitating. 

As one of the top orthopedic surgeons in Phoenix, and team doctor for the Arizona Rattlers, as well as an avid Fan of all athletic events, it’s incredibly difficult to discuss Sjogren’s Syndrome with an athlete simply because of the massive affect this disorder will have on their ability to play at 100%.

Some of the complications that can arise with athletes suffering from Sjogren’s Syndrome are joint pain, swelling and stiffness, skin rashes, dry cough and extreme, chronic fatigue, all aspects that can dramatically impact their performance on the field, or court.

Sjogren’s Syndrome Treatment 

While orthopedic surgeons take a great deal of interest in Sjogren’s Syndrome from a medical perspective, there is no surgery or orthopedic treatment that, in fact, can cure the immune disorder. 

Treatment involves management of the immune disorder through medications and a personally tailored balance of rest and exercise, as well as lifestyle and diet changes and addressing additional, specific complications that arise such as arthritis, RA, joint pain, and the quite common lower back pain that Venus Williams is currently experiencing. 

In Venus William’s case, one of her additional, specific complications is chronic joint pain, a detrimental complication for an athlete. Diet changes, physical therapy and rest can alleviate inflammation, relax joints and increase energy.

While athletes are not exempt from this immune disorder, as a team doctor and sports medicine orthopedic surgeon, I have personally found that they are more inclined to manage it with greater success and intensity.

If you are experiencing joint pain combined with chronic dry mouth and eyes, along with extreme fatigue, it’s important to speak to your physician about the possibility of RA or arthritis associated with Sjogren’s Syndrome. As an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician, facing an athlete with this immune disorder involves trust, compassion, and experience. Contact us for more information.

About Shelden Martin

I've had the privilege of working with many professional, collegiate and high school athletic teams. I am currently the head team physician for the 2012 AFL World Champion Arizona Rattlers. I have also presented research both nationally and internationally and published extensively in peer-reviewed literature.