Strictly champion Joanne Clifton ‘broke down in tears' after arthritis diagnosis

The pro dancer is now unable to get out of her car without the aid of a special device.

Former Strictly Come Dancing champion Joanne Clifton has said she “broke down in tears” after being told she would probably need knee replacement surgery.

The ballroom professional, 38, was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in both knees in 2015, a year before she claimed victory on the BBC One show alongside celebrity partner Ore Oduba.

After joining Strictly in 2014, Clifton suffered with knee pain on the 2015 tour, but continued performing until one day she woke up unable to move “with a massive swollen knee”.

Joanne and Kevin Clifton
Joanne and Kevin Clifton (Ian West/PA)

She told the Daily Mail’s Good Health: “I was in tears wondering if I’d get through it, but I didn’t miss a show.”

Clifton, the sister of fellow Strictly champion Kevin, completed the tour while having regular physiotherapy massages and strapping her knees.

A subsequent visit to a consultant and an MRI scan led to a diagnosis and she was told the cartilage in both her knees was being worn away, and that she would probably need a knee replacement in the future.

She said: “I broke down in tears as dance was then my whole life.”

When she reached the Strictly final in 2016, training with broadcaster Oduba had put pressure on her knees.

She said: “I was a bit silly – I put a great idea ahead of my own condition.

Strictly Come Dancing 2016
Joanne Clifton and Ore Oduba during the live Strictly final (Guy Levy/BBC/PA)

“I’d been told when I was diagnosed in 2015 to avoid high-impact movements. We’d been practising jumping all week.

“By the Friday and Saturday I was really struggling. I look back on that dance now and think ‘Oh, for the sake of my knees, why did I choreograph all that jumping?’”

“After our last dance, I could only hobble up to Claudia (Winkleman) to get our points. But winning was a great feeling despite the pain.”

Clifton left Strictly after the final and says she is now unable to get out of her car without the aid of a special device to grip on to.

Clifton, who recently began touring as part of The Addams Family show, was the first in the family to be crowned winner of Strictly.

Two years later Kevin joined her in lifting the series’ coveted glitterball trophy, after winning alongside documentary presenter and now-girlfriend Stacey Dooley.

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