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Pro Tennis Player Caroline Wozniacki Reveals Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis

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Danish tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, currently ranked No. 3 in the world, revealed she’s been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis during a press conference after her season-ending loss at the WTA Finals on Thursday.

Wozniacki, formerly ranked No. 1 after winning her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, initially believed she had the flu after competing at Wimbledon in July. “I was like, you know, it’s fine, I’m gonna get over it,” she said. “I go to Washington. Knees are hurting, my leg is hurting, I’m like, OK, well, just move on. I play in Montreal and something still doesn’t feel right.”

After waking up one morning unable to lift her arms over her head, Wozniacki went to her doctor, but all the tests came back negative.

“They tell me everything is fine,” she said, “but I know that I’m not fine.”

Like many others with chronic illness, Wozniacki had to continue to research and advocate for herself, knowing something wasn’t right with her body. Though she believed she had mono or another similar illness, Wozniacki ultimately discovered she had rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the body’s joints, causing pain, stiffness and swelling. “It’s been a lot to take in,” she said.

After the US Open, she went to a top specialist to seek treatment for her RA, but explained that she decided to wait to reveal her diagnosis until the end of the pro season so as not to give her competitors an advantage.

“I didn’t want to talk about it obviously during the year because I don’t want to give anyone the edge or thinking that I’m not feeling well, but I’ve been feeling well,” she said. “You learn how to cope after matches. Some days you wake up and you can’t get out of bed and you just have to know that’s how it is. Other days you live and you’re fine, you don’t even feel like you have it.”

After announcing her RA diagnosis, fans were quick to pour out their love and support for Wozniacki on social media, thanking her for speaking out and raising awareness of this disease.

Now that the season is over, Wozniacki said she’s happy to have a bit more control and be able to create a plan for managing her disease better going forward. She told reporters she feels proud of how positive she has been since her diagnosis, and is doing her best to not let the disease hold her back.

“It’s obviously not ideal for anybody, and I think when you’re a professional athlete, it’s also not even more ideal,” she explained. “But at the end of the day you find a plan, you figure out what to do, you do your research, and thankfully there’s great things now that you can do to it, and do about it, and you just kind of move on from it and work through it and figure out how to deal with it and live with it, and that’s that.”

Wozniacki is not the first professional tennis player to be diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. Venus Williams revealed in 2011 that she has Sjögren’s syndrome, an immune disorder primarily characterized by dry eyes and dry mouth.

Lead photo via Caroline Wozniacki’s official Facebook page

Originally published: October 26, 2018
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