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Aging Athlete Injury Rehabilitation

The aging athlete describes the collection of 40-70 year old men and women who continue to participate in physical activity in one way or another. Some of these people are lifelong athletes while others have recently taken up regular exercise. Each aging athlete runs an increased risk of injury to due muscle, bone, tendon, and ligament changes as their body grows older. However, this risk can be counteracted with the necessary preventative measures.

The problem with the aging body comes from a number of angles. Those who continue to exercise into their later adult years in fact tend to slow down the aging process. However, as we get older our bones become less stable, our muscles begin to decrease in size, and tendons and ligaments are less elastic. As an athlete who continues to exercise vigorously, these body changes pose an increased risk to injury. In fact, overuse injury amongst the 40-60 year old group is markedly more common compared to an individual in their twenties.
The aging athlete is often separated into three different categories to help further explain their problems and needs. The older athlete is someone that is over 50 and still involved competitively in sports. This person most often exercises multiple times per week and has practiced this routine for a number of years. Their main concern is an acute injury that temporarily halts their ability to exercise and compete.

The second category of the aging athlete is known as the former athlete. As the title suggests this type of person was at a younger point in their life dedicated to a sport and therefore was in good physical condition. However, as they have aged they have become less involved in exercise and as a result have become deconditioned. The problems that face the former athlete are most often degenerative issues like tendonitis.

The final form of the aging athlete is labeled the prematurely mature athlete. This patient is always younger, twenty-five to forty, and has a history of frequent injury. Despite continuing swelling or trauma that the premature mature athlete displays, they continue to participate in demanding sports.

There are a number of preventative steps to take in order to decrease the risk of suffering from the common aches and pains the aging athlete suffers from. After all, in order to enjoy activities and reap the benefits of exercise an individual needs to be physically able to perform. One technique that has proven effective is altering your sport periodically. If you are a runner, try switching to cycling for a while to give your knees a rest. Flexibility is also crucial to avoiding muscle tears. Good flexibility also enables your body to align properly which goes a long way in preventing overuse injuries. A form of strengthening exercises also helps the body absorb impact from different sports. Finally, one of the most important things to remember as an aging athlete is aerobic conditioning. The risk of heart disease, among many other cardiovascular issues, can be greatly reduced by maintaining adequate aerobic endurance.

Many people blame age for causing our inability to continue to be physically active. However, just the opposite could be true; our physical inactivity is causing us to grow old. Research has proven the benefits of regular exercise and in fact has shown how it can slow the aging process. Unfortunately, there are still physiological changes that result with age and for this reason it is important to understand how to properly treat the body. Talking with a healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist, can help you understand how to care for your body and design a plan for injury prevention while you continue to exercise into old age.

Submitted by:

Rob Tendick

Rob Tendick is a physical therapy student working to earn his Doctor of Physical Therapy. The combination of athetic experience and working as a physical therapy aide at http://www.westwoodpt.com has given Rob an understanding of injury treatment.




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