Mickelson Leads New Arthritis Awareness Campaign

Taking the week off from the PGA Tour, Phil Mickelson is in New York City today to launch his new "On Course with Phil." The education program will provide information on the symptoms and treatment for people suffering from certain chronic inflammatory joint and skin conditions.

Mickelson will be partnering in the program with two pharmaceutical giants, Amgen and Pfizer, as well as the Arthritis Foundation and the National Psoriasis Foundation, both of which are dedicated to educating people with chronic inflammatory conditions.

Mickelson plans to speak on behalf of the program at upcoming public functions. A new website (www.OnCourseWithPhil.com) has been developed to provide online information.

Mickelson knows about the deleterious effects of arthritis. Last year before the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, he began feeling pain near his right ankle and it felt like he'd sprained his left index finger and right wrist. Despite the pain, Mickelson went on to finish fourth in the major championship.

But a week later, the pain had spread throughout his body and he had a tough time sleeping. "I was laying in bed and any movement was painful. I had to go lie on the couch because whenever (wife) Amy would move it would hurt," he told USA Today's Steve DiMeglio (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/golf/2011-03-02-on-course-with-phil_N.htm).

"I remember thinking at 3 in the morning about what is this going to do? How is this going to affect my playing career, my every day life playing with my kids? Those were my first concerns. A few days later I went out to play golf and the pain had extended to my shoulders and I wasn't able to take the club back."

Mickelson went to the doctor and was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disease caused by an overactive immune system that affects not only the body's joints but also the skin. Approximately 600,000 American adults suffer from the painful affliction.

Mickelson began a treatment program, including medication, and has subsequently gotten the condition under control. He's now able to play tournaments week after week without pain. In addition, he regained strength lost last year during the early stages of treatment.

"The reason I have been successful in my treatment program is because I got on it right away," Mickelson told DiMeglio. "I got a quick diagnosis and got on a treatment program right away. The campaign will stress how important it is to take action - to see a rheumatologist, to get a diagnosis and to get on a treatment program right away before permanent damage has been done or the disease has progressed.

"What we're going to try and do is tell my story, explain some of the things I went through, the fears and concerns I had, and to provide a vehicle for people to find out information."

A rheumatologist assisting with Mickelson's new campaign, Christopher Ritchlin, told DiMeglio that many people suffering from the disease go undiagnosed or untreated. "I see every day how debilitating these illnesses can be - both physically and emotionally," Ritchlin said.

"Every patient is different. I recommend that patients experiencing joint pain, stiffness or swelling, or skin inflammation with patches of raised, itchy red skin speak to their specialists about their symptoms so they can find the appropriate treatment plan."