No one likes coming to terms with getting older. It happens across the board, whether fitness is a regular part of your schedule or not, regardless of whether you are an artist, a coach, an engineer, or a pro-badminton player. What does matter, however, is how sports injuries are addressed, treated, and most importantly, prevented. Without injury prevention for older athletes, there would be a heavier stream of patients revolving through the doors of specialists. Injuries need to treated immediately and with care, not left to heal on their own as they might have done before.
Why Am I Getting Injured More Often As I Age?
One of the most common ways aging athletes get injured is self-inflicted over-exercise. Now, wait a minute. Over-exercise? Is that possible?
The answer is yes. Overwhelmingly so, according to an article published by the National Library of Medicine – 70% of injuries in the elderly over a 3-year study were due to overuse.
Granted, ‘overuse’ is a rather large umbrella term used to pinpoint a scapegoat for the origin of lists and lists of injuries. Some of the most common injuries in older athletes that have roots in overuse are common enough that seasoned athletes write them off as a solitary injury, which becomes more and more risky as you grow older.
The Most Common Injuries in Older Athletes Due to Overuse:
- Muscle Strains
- Shin Splints
- Stress Fractures
- Achilles Tendon Tears
- Tennis Elbow
Every single injury listed stems from repetitive impact or movement without proper rest, recovery, and prevention. While these afflictions can be found in both younger and older athletes, the subsequent expected recovery time and treatments have the potential to be seen as equal – as the same as it always had been.
Herein lies the problem, and why aging athletes are at such a greater risk. With more experience, more stamina, and a well-oiled structure and schedule, it is often assumed that aging, healthy, fit bodies do not undergo the same changes as aging bodies of any other kind. While it remains true that by treating your body right, some changes will not begin to affect you until much later, it does not offset all of the risks.
By acknowledging the risks and potential for prevention, aging athletes take their future into their own hands. These methods and measures do not have to be forthright and drastic. It does not have to mean that you can no longer play sports, or that you are either fated to be injured if not taken or will never be injured if you do, but it decreases the opportunity for risk and injury by enough that the time taken will be well-spent.
Some of the preventative steps are as simple as establishing a thorough warm up and cool down routine instead of cutting corners and only doing one or the other. Stretching not only lets your body adjust to the level of activity you partake in, but also improves and maintains joint and muscle flexibility, which naturally decreases with age.
2. Incorporating New Exercises into Your Routine
A step further into stretching would be integrating new facets into your workout regiment. Lower-impact activities that benefit different areas of your life and body – such as balance exercises, core work, yoga, or water aerobics – can give your body a much needed rest while still giving it the movement it needs and the stimulation you crave. Becoming a well-rounded athlete only reaps benefits, especially when overuse and limited movement becomes a reality as you age.
3. Upgrading your Equipment
One benefit of growing older is that you accrue resources along with your experience. Higher-quality equipment not only lasts longer, but is also more comfortable and easier on the body. If you were a runner, there is an obvious rift between running in on-sale, thin-soled tennis shoes than any name brand that specializes in cross-country running. Upgrade your equipment that might be old, ill-fitting, tearing, or that brings the potential of injury by malfunction due to wear-and-tear. Upgrading your equipment could also involve upgrading your environment. Training alone gets riskier as you age and become more susceptible to injuries, but the surfaces your practice on play a role in impact on the body, as well.
4. Modifying your Workouts
While the idea does not seem feasible or particularly enticing to some, even small changes can make a big difference in the long-run. These modifications can range anywhere from a change in schedule – giving yourself a longer recovery time, such as going one week on, one week off – to a change in the actual activity that allows for aches and pain. Going down a weight set, avoiding the butterfly stroke, or avoiding a hilly part of town are all ways that you respect your body and its limitations.
5. Listening to your Body
This brings us to the most important preventative measure of all – listening to your body and paying attention to what it tells you. As you age, you should begin to get familiar with your body’s signals, tricks, and nuances, and then listen to them. You know best when limits are being approached, and when you need to rest where you would have gone on previously. Pain is not optional, and injuries are not inconsequential. By taking injuries seriously and treating them appropriately, you invest in a healthier future, even if it means coming to terms with the fact that recovery may take longer than it has before. By stopping once you are in pain, you allow the body’s healing process to begin building a stronger, more resilient you. Listening to your body takes the ‘over’ out of ‘overuse’, and can be the most important weapon in your arsenal of preventative measures against sports injuries as you age.
If you or someone you love has suffered a sports injury in the Louisville, Kentucky-area, board certified sports medicine physician Dr. Stacie Grossfeld at Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC can help. Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC is accepting new patients, and same day appointments are available. For additional information or to schedule an appointment, please contact Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC today at 502-212-2663.