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Healing hoops: Sea otter plays basketball to ease arthritis

Portland Trail Blazers: Watch out! There’s a new hoops star in town.Okay — so you won't find him on the court, but you can find him at the Oregon Zoo. The player in question is the adorable Eddie, an arthritic sea otter who started playing basketball last year as therapeutic exercise for his aching joints. His routine consists of dunking a ball through a plastic hoop in a training pool behind-
Eddie, a 15-year-old sea otter at the Oregon Zoo, practices shooting baskets at the Oregon Zoo. The activity is designed to help Eddie keep flexibility in his arthritic shoulder joints.
Eddie, a 15-year-old sea otter at the Oregon Zoo, practices shooting baskets at the Oregon Zoo. The activity is designed to help Eddie keep flexibility in his arthritic shoulder joints.Michael Durham / Courtesy of the Oregon Zoo / Today

Portland Trail Blazers: Watch out! There’s a new hoops star in town.

Okay — so you won't find him on the court, but you can find him at the Oregon Zoo. The player in question is the adorable Eddie, an arthritic sea otter who started playing basketball last year as therapeutic exercise for his aching joints. His routine consists of dunking a ball through a plastic hoop in a training pool behind-the-scenes of his exhibit area at the zoo.

Eddie took to the sport quickly, according to marine life keepers at the Oregon Zoo. Now he’s a regular b-ball pro, showing off his slam dunks while getting some exercise.

“He’s definitely got game,” Jenny DeGroot, the zoo’s lead sea otter keeper, said in a press release. “Sea otters have incredible dexterity, so it makes sense Eddie would have this hidden talent. They’re famous for using rocks as tools to crack open clams.”

Eddie has lived at the zoo with his longtime partner, Thelma, since 2000. Eddie's coat was once a rich brown color all over, but now it's faded to a creamy white.Michael Durham / Courtesy of the Oregon Zoo / Today

Zoo veterinarians discovered Eddie’s elbow arthritis after he and his longtime companion, Thelma, underwent X-rays last year. The docs prescribed more exercise for the 15-year-old otter, an age that’s considered “geriatric” for his species.

“We had to get creative,” DeGroot explained in the press release. “There aren’t many natural opportunities for Eddie to work those arthritic elbow joints, because sea otters don’t use their front limbs to swim—they swim by moving their back legs and flippers. So training him with the basketball hoop was a way to get Eddie using those front limbs more regularly.”

According to his keepers, Eddie enjoys the exercise, and his age has yet to slow him down.

Watch a video of Eddie in action here:

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