Editors Notes: With the number of "baby boomers" currently entering their 60's, "the experienced, but older athlete" is a growing population. I was glad to find this information at ArticlesOn. I hope it will encourage you to take precautions to make your continuing fitness programs sensible and in keeping with performance improvement without injury.
Rehab For the Aging Athlete
By: Robert Tendick
The aging athlete is the group of 40-60 year olds that have continued their athletic endeavors or have taken up some sort of athletic activity in mid-adulthood. Exercising throughout life is a great practice because research has shown its positive effects on the aging process. However, as we continue to age our body becomes more prone to injury due to the fact that our bones, muscles, and even tendons begin to breakdown or become less elastic.
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 former athlete is typically not as old as the older athlete. This type of aging athlete was formerly involved in competitive sports but is not nearly as active these days. As a result, they are less conditioned than their earlier days and tend to pursue anaerobic activities. The former athlete's concerns typically center on degenerative issues.
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.
Robert Tendick is a student preparing himself to earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. His experience as an athlete with various injuries has given him insight into the common aches an pains that trouble many athletes on a daily basis. He has also had the opportunity as a physical therapy aide to help heal a number of Santa Monica physical therapy patients through the use of cutting edge injury rehabilitation techniques.