If it feels as though American Danielle Collins suddenly seemed to be in and out of tournaments more than average, the reason for that became clear Wednesday.
The 25-year-old from Florida announced via press statement that she has recently been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
She is the second player in the last 12 months to announce she had been diagnosed with RA. Former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki announced the same at the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore.
According to the American Arthritis Foundation, rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease. It is grouped in a category with lupus and Sjögren’s disease, which has affected Venus Williams’s career for more than a decade.
Williams was approximately the same age when she received her diagnosis. Wozniacki was a couple of years older. But all would be considered far younger than the average age of most who have contracted it.
“The body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints. This creates inflammation that causes the tissue that lines the inside of joints to thicken, resulting in swelling and pain in and around the joints. If inflammation goes unchecked, it can damage cartilage, the elastic tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint, as well as the bones themselves.”
The diagnosis is reportedly difficult because “in its early stages because the early signs and symptoms mimic those of many other diseases.”
More than 1.5 million Americans have it. And women are two to three times more likely to contract it.
Diagnosis the first step
According to the press release, it is believed that Collins had it for “some time”, but only “recently” did she get the diagnosis.
(The poorly-written press release is extremely short on … everything).
“It’s a huge relief to get a diagnosis because as an athlete, everything is physical for me and now I can plan to attack this disease with a strategic management plan,” is the quote from Collins. “Collins is taking her diagnosis in stride, pulling on her on-the-court competitive spirit to fight this disease,” it adds.
Collins’s primary care physician Dr. Clifton Page, a sports physician based in Fairfax, Va., is quoted as saying that “for the elite athlete, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is not a career ending diagnosis.”
Diet and proper rest
According to the release, Collins plans diet adjustments and tailoring her off-court training. She will adjust her playing schedule to accommodate the now-necessary amount of recovery time.
“As an (sic) professional athlete, you are constantly reminded that your body is your temple. Everything is physical for me, and I’ve come to appreciate how both mental and physical conditions are aligned– how every muscle and joint in the body is in tuned with one another. My health is the utmost of importance to me and I’m ready to take on the fight of rheumatoid arthritis,” is Collins’s statement in the release.
“While I don’t know for sure what my journey to recovery will be, I do know that I feel really positive about getting back on the court. I feel like now I can get better and address my body’s needs in fighting this disease.”
Wozniacki announces during Singapore
Almost a year ago, after being eliminated at the WTA Tour finals in Singapore, Wozniacki made her announcement.
Wozniacki hasn’t won a title this season. But she did reach the semifinals at the Beijing Mandatory last week. It was her 15th tournament of the year, with some solid breaks between blocks of two or three events.
She also got married, to David Lee, shortly before Wimbledon.
Collins still on rise
Collins, who went to the University of Virginia before turning pro and thus remains a “young” player on Tour despite being 25, obviously is at a different stage of her career.
Currently ranked No. 33 (her career high of No. 23 came after a great run at the Australian Open in January), she reached the top 50 for the first time only in 2018.
Ranked No. 35 at the time, Collins defeated Julia Goerges, Caroline Garcia and (then) No. 2 Angelique Kerber, losing just two games to the former Oz champion. Petra Kvitova defeated her in the semifinals in Melbourne.
As it happens, Collins has played almost the identical schedule to Wozniacki this season. The American also has played two Fed Cup ties for the U.S., plus the San Jose event in early August.
So it’s a tough blow for collins who did withdraw from some events this season, but who was on the come-up at the start of it.
She had been entered in the Luxembourg tournament next week, but has withdrawn.