How I Overcame Arthritis as a Rugby Player
Taken from Raymond Schep’s Book “Eat Right For Life.”
For some reason I became interested in playing rugby at the age of 52, after seeing rugby games broadcast on TV in the USA. I had played rugby in school from the age of about 14 to 17 but did not continue when I went to college.
I found rugby clubs in Los Angeles and joined one. I was surprisingly successful and was made a regular member of the clubs second team. I enjoyed it very much and was extremely enthusiastic about it. After about 6 months my knees swelled up and became very painful. Walking was very painful and difficult.
I went to a doctor and was referred to an orthopaedic specialist. He had an MRI scan done. His conclusion was that I had arthritis and most of the cartilage in my knees was gone. Cartilage is a hard ivory- like substance that covers the ends of our bones and allows them to move against each other without friction.
He said I would never run again let alone play rugby and the only exercise I could do was swimming or cycling. He said that I was a candidate for knee replacement surgery. He gave me powerful anti-inflammatories called COX inhibitors and that I should see him again in three months.
Finding my own treatment
Devastated, I turned to the internet to research the cause of arthritis. As a PhD chemist I was quite adept at locating and studying scientific research on the internet. The very first thing I found was that anti-inflammatory drugs do not cure arthritis they only give temporary relief. They actually aggravate arthritis and are needed in greater and greater amounts to cope with increased pain and inflammation. I discarded my prescription drugs.
The next thing I found out was that they had a material in Australia called Cosequin DS that they were giving to race horses that were becoming lame. I wondered if this could be used by humans also. I searched for a source of this Cosequin and found out that there was an equivalent on the US market called Cosamin DS and it was being marketed for human consumption.
I studied it and found out it was a natural supplement of a compound called glucosamine that is used by the body to make new cartilage. It also contained chondroitin sulfate and manganese. I purchased it and took about 6 tablets a day. Since this happened glucosamine has become enormously popular and there are now dozens of different brands of these supplements on every drug store and supermarket shelf.
How Omega-3 Fatty Acids Helped
The next thing I discovered was internet claims that seal oil was beneficial for arthritis. To my dismay I found out that it came from fur seals in Canada, and that animal rights groups had banned the importation of it into the United States. However upon further research I found that it was a source of omega-3 fatty acids and I could also get it from fish oil or the much more expensive krill oil.
This was before this substance also became very popular and is also now on every supermarket shelf. I took about 3000 to 5000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids which is about 6 to 8 gel caps a day. It is abbreviated as EPA and DHA on the bottle labels. I found out in my research that omega-3 fatty acids suppress inflammation in our bodies whereas omega-6 fatty acid increases inflammation. It is this inflammation that causes the body to destroy the cartilage in our bodies.
Our modern day diet has an excess of omega-6 fatty acids in it, and manufacturers have removed omega-3 from our food because it becomes rancid very easily. So our arthritis appears to be caused by an imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid in our processed food diets.
My moment of inspiration
After about six weeks on these supplements I proceeded to find an amazing study reported on the internet done by scientists at Stanford Research Institute.
They found that if they took the cells that make cartilage called cartilage basal cells in a laboratory culture and subjected them to enormous pressure like 1500 pound per square inch, the cells increase their output of cartilage by as much as one and a half times!
Why they did this and how you could get such enormous pressures on the cartilage cells in the body I did not know. But then within 3 days a flash of insight came to me. These enormous pressures are put on our cartilage cells when we run, jog or jump or exercise! I was stunned to realize that cartilage is not damaged or destroyed by exercise but by inflammation in the body and once this inflammation is removed we can grow cartilage by exercising, jumping running and stomping! Just the very OPPOSITE of what my doctor was telling me to do!
I realized that this mechanism was developed by animals over millions of years of evolution. The more you exercise or the harder you run to escape predators the more your cartilage grows! So the next day found me, with great joy back at training with the rugby club. Yes my knees were still painful but I was able to run and the pain did not get worse. Eventually the pain got less.
Three months later found me at my doctors office. He took one look at me and said “Wow if you can find a cure for arthritis WE could make millions!”
Well I don’t see the millions, but I went on to have a great rugby career.
Getting back on the pitch
I found that the national champion rugby Club Belmont Shore was within driving distance and asked to join them. They accepted me. I made their second team and I also became a good place kicker. I can tell you there is no greater shock to the knees than kicking a ball over the poles from 40 yards.
I went on to tour England with the club and made a successful conversion kick in one of the three games we played there. I continued playing until the age of 67, scoring points from conversions at that age. Most amazing I even was thrown on the Sevens rugby team for a few minutes at a time, the same Sevens team that was three times national championship winners. None of the players were over 30. I was training shoulder to shoulder with players on the USA Sevens team and players on the USA Rugby World Cup Team and watched them play South Africa on TV.
What else I discovered
Other discoveries I made is that a natural sulfur supplement called MSM greatly strengthens the cartilage in our bodies 1000 mg a day for 2 weeks thereafter, a maintenance dose of 1000 mg a week.
As a result I was immune to cartilage injury and saw dozens of co-players sidelined by knee cartilage injury. Another discovery I made is that our bones are not at optimum strength because vitamin C is needed to make collagen fiber in our bones, making them elastic and almost unbreakable. No amount of calcium supplementation will do this. I saw so many players carried off with broken legs, arms and concussion, not me! I took 2500 mg a day of vitamin C for 2 years. After that it upset my stomach, and the reason was my bones were at full strength and the body did not need any more C.
I also found that 50 mg a day of iron could increase stamina by 10%, and that 6 mg a day of a copper supplement greatly strengthens the cardiovascular system. This last finding about copper is the most extremely important and critical of all. In your 50’s or 60’s you don’t want any heart attacks or stroke. Copper is deficient in processed foods.
My only sadness is that players and coaches do not pay any attention to what I tell them. Can you imagine what an international rugby team could accomplish if they adopted these findings? Unfortunately their medical doctors would reject these findings but I would challenge these doctors to take me on, on a rugby field.