Imagine being an incredibly happy and active 8 year old who loves sports. Now imagine your knees and ankles swelling up. You look down at your hands and your fingers look puffy. You feel stiffness and and your jaw just keeps locking like you just sucked on a jumbo lollipop; but you didn’t…
New Zealand native Matt Lockwood was 8 years old when these sensations began and his mom decided it was time to make an appointment with a rheumatologist. Matt was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA).
As time progressed, the sensations continued to spread and intensify. Matt was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (A.S.), a rare form of arthritis a few years later. He wasn’t able to participate in physical education classes in school and when he was 13, Matt had to stop playing sports. The pain was too great for him to continue playing hockey, tennis and golf.
But Matt wasn’t ready to give up. Although he had trouble walking long distances and couldn’t run, Matt followed his treatment plan and exercised as much as possible.
But then Matt found Racing!
Matt had always liked cars and racing, but after his official AS diagnosis he really became interested in motor sports. Racing enabled Matt to remain seated. He had found a sport that didn’t cause him any pain, and he proved to be good at it! When Matt was 18 and both his parents had overcome their hesitations about the controversially dangerous sport, Matt entered the big leagues.
An Inspiration for All Aspiring Athletes with a Chronic Condition
“Sheer persistence and stubbornness is how I got into motorsport” said Matt in an interview with Arthritis New Zealand: The Juice. Matt is 27 now, and has a success sheet including several national racing titles and motorsport awards and scholarships. Matt had a dream, and despite his chronic condition, he is achieving it! Only recently did Matt disclose to the public that he lives with AS; he worried that his condition would affect sponsorship opportunities, which are vital to drivers. But Matt wanted to share his experience to increase public awareness that arthritis affects people of all ages. Go Matt!