The benefits of glucosamine

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By: Josh Staph

Team doctors for the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs recommend glucosamine supplementation for their players to maintain healthy joints. Both teams were able to avoid detrimental injuries in 2005 on their way to the NBA Finals.

The Stone Clinic in San Francisco strives to put athletes back in the game fitter, faster and stronger than they were before their injuries. Using cartilage and ligament repair, regeneration and replacement, clinic owner and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kevin Stone specializes in treating joint arthritis and knee, shoulder and ankle injuries. Since the clinic employs state-of the-art surgical and rehabilitation techniques, it might surprise you to learn that for patients who come to him with knee problems, Dr. Stone first prescribes the over-the-counter supplement, glucosamine.

Glucosamine made its first appearance at the Stone Clinic in the mid-90s. Stone recalls, "We had patients tell us they took glucosamine after they saw the veterinarian prescription help their horses and dogs stop limping." Patients didn't like the large, veterinarian-grade horse pills, however; so Stone developed an easier way to take it—a tasty drink called Joint Juice, which he gives to all his patients.

Although studies have proven the efficacy of glucosamine for joint health in humans, many athletes are still in the dark about the supplement. Luckily, Stone has made it his mission to enlighten them.

"Glucosamine is a naturally occurring charged sugar made from the chitin found in the shells of shellfish," he explains. "It exists in all the tissues of our bodies and is part of the extra-cellular make-up of cartilage." When an athlete takes glucosamine as a supplement, his cartilage, ligaments and bone tissues absorb it.

A safe and natural anti-inflammatory, glucosamine has preventative and post-injury benefits. "Once you have an injury," Stone says, "glucosamine inhibits the breakdown process that causes further tissue damage."

According to Stone, glucosamine increases the absorption of water into tissues, which decreases stiffness in joints and improves their shock-absorption capability. With each step, glucosamine absorbs and then releases water to absorb shock. It also stimulates production of hyaluronic acid, which lubricates joints. Increased lubrication and less stiffness help an athlete move more smoothly with less pain.

Although glucosamine supplementation can help athletes of all sports, the nature of basketball makes it almost a necessity. "Basketball players are running and jumping on a hard court," Stone says. "Every impact has the potential to damage joint cartilage and knee ligaments. If you can provide more lubrication and decrease the stiffness that athletes experience after playing, they will move better, be safer and play longer."

Joint stiffness and micro-injuries to tissues can lead to osteoarthritis—a painful condition marked by the destruction of articular cartilage, which covers the top of the bone in some joints. The 70 million-plus Americans who have osteoarthritis may have been able to prevent it with glucosamine supplementation at the onset. With this in mind, Stone says, "All athletes should take about 1500 milligrams of glucosamine per day."

No side effects and the impossibility of overdose make glucosamine completely safe and beneficial for an athlete of any age. For more information on glucosamine and exercises to prevent injury, visit


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