When a physically active person like me injures a joint, especially one as crucial as a knee or ankle, one of the first thoughts, if not the first thought, is likely to be “How fast can I get back to my usual activities?”

That kind of thinking, however, could set the stage for a painful chronic problem years later: post-traumatic osteoarthritis.

In the rush to get back in the game, whether as part of a team or elite sport or simply a cherished recreational activity like jogging or tennis, it is tempting to short-circuit the rehabilitation needed to allow the joint to heal fully. But adequate recovery, including rehab measures aimed at strengthening structures that support the injured joint, is critical to maximize its stability, reduce the risk of reinjury and head off irreparable joint damage.

And you don’t have to be a senior citizen to pay the price of failing to build up the tissues that help protect that joint. Studies have shown that when an adolescent or young adult sustains a knee injury, for example, X-ray evidence of arthritis is often apparent within a decade.

So I broke a finger in law school, and they told me I’d probably have arthritis in the joint within 10-15 years. But I dutifully trudged over to Yale Student Health for physical therapy, even though it felt sort of dumb having a physical therapist bend my finger, and soak it in a salad-bowl-sized whirlpool. But now, much more than 10-15 years later, I have to stop to think to remember which finger I broke, so I guess it was worth it.