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Basketball Star Details His Struggle With Gout
Date:5/23/2008

Maurice Cheeks shows that the arthritic condition can strike anyone

FRIDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- He's a 15-year veteran of the National Basketball Association, a four-time NBA All-Star, and head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. He's basketball great Maurice Cheeks.

And he's got gout.

"I had no idea what gout was," Cheeks said, describing his first encounter -- at the age of 46 -- with the often-debilitating arthritic condition. "Never heard of it. Never talked to anyone about it, and then I started to find out that there were many other people with this condition."

Cheeks made his remarks at a press conference Thursday in New York City to mark the second annual National Gout Awareness Day, sponsored by the Gout & Uric Acid Education Society (GUAES). The goal is to draw attention to the risks, symptoms, and treatments associated with a condition that strikes between three million and five million adult Americans, and to debunk stereotypes about the so-called "disease of kings."

According to GUAES, gouty arthritis results from a condition known as hyperuricemia -- the build-up of abnormally high levels of uric acid in the blood. A normal waste product that forms from the breakdown of purines found in cells and a wide range of foods, uric acid is usually dissolved in the blood, passed through the kidney, and excreted through urine.

But in excess amounts, sodium urate can crystallize. In some cases, the resulting needle-like formations lodge and jab into joints, bringing about sudden and painful bouts of tenderness, redness, stiffness, and swelling in the big toe, instep, ankle, heel, knee, wrist, finger, or elbow.

People typically describe the pain as akin to the trauma of childbirth or breaking a bone.

"I don't think I can adequately express the pain," Cheeks said.

"I once had a severe ankle sprain, and in order for me to play, they had to wrap it and wrap
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