Overuse Injuries Soar as Baby Boomers Turn 50
WebMD News Archive
Jan. 1, 2000 (Atlanta) -- The incidence of injuries caused by overuse has
exploded in recent years among fitness crazed baby boomers, according to
presenters at a recent meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
Despite its risks, doctors say exercise has countless benefits and most overuse
injuries are preventable.
"The baby boomers are one segment of the population that really
understands the importance of exercise," says Nicholas DiNubile, MD, one of
the speakers and a clinical assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at
University of Pennsylvania. "But they get into trouble when they try to
perform they way they did at 20. As a group, we're seeing many more baby
boomers with torn muscles, tendons, and ligaments." DiNubile tells WebMD
that aging bodies are predisposed to overuse injuries.
"As we age, our reaction time increases and our joints have less
lubrication. Also, our muscles, tendons and ligaments are less elastic. The
Achilles tendon in the bottom of the foot is a good example. It becomes fatty,
spongy, and tears much more easily," says DiNubile. These aging changes are
likely to affect the growing number of senior citizens exercising
Since 1987, there has been an increase of more than 75% in the number of
seniors who work out frequently, according to a report by American Sports Data
Research. In response, some health clubs now offer special training areas with
the sound tracks and equipment preferred by seniors.
Doctors who specialize in caring for the elderly applaud this trend.
"Exercise is truly the fountain of youth," says Patricia Bloom, MD,
the chief of gerontology at St. Luke's Roosevelt Medical Center and associate
clinical professor at Columbia University. "There's a lot of good data that
shows exercise decreases the risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, colon
cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, and depression. And it improves muscle
mass, balance, strength, and sleep," she says.
"What this means is that exercise helps people live longer lives with
less disability. Moving around just a little more can mean a significant
improvement in health. So any risk of overuse syndrome is greatly outweighed by
the benefits of exercise. And overuse injuries are largely preventable,"
says Bloom. Physicians specializing in sports medicine agree.