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A Bad Case of 'Boomeritis'

Being athletic and over 40 can be a real pain, but staying active actually helps you deal with the pain.

Do It the Right Way continued...

But what if you are playing with old injuries? Maybe you were a college track star and your joints have never recovered, or you suffer from chronic tennis elbow. For starters, you're not alone.

Baby boomers are credited with ushering in the original fitness movement in the '70s and '80s and continuing through the '90s and into the present. Unfortunately, they're also on the leading edge of sports injuries. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, sports injuries among the baby boom generation increased a whopping 33% in the '90s, contributing to the estimated 17 million sports injuries in America each year.

Boomer's Luck

Esiason can certainly weigh in on this one: "My feet kill me, especially in the morning when I get up," he says. "I played in the early '80s and '90s in those cookie-cutter stadiums with old Astroturf. You actually get hit twice every time you are tackled: once by the defensive player and once by the ground. And that old Astroturf hit hard."

Despite suffering three concussions during his career -- including, in 1994, being knocked unconscious in one of the most frightening hits ever seen on national television -- Esiason counts himself as lucky.

"Every professional football player leaves the game with some sort of ache and pain -- most have had some surgery," he says. "I was in the NFL for years and never broke a bone and never had invasive surgery. I am one of the few to leave in relatively good health."

The key to continued activity is finding new ways to move your body. Boomer's good health and aching feet led him to try a new sport in retirement: hockey. A self-proclaimed "fanatic," he took up the game with a vengeance.

"Now I play pretty much full time through the summer and winter months," he says. "And what do you know? It doesn't hurt my feet."

Know Gain From Pain

Esiason had to learn the difference between playing with pain as a professional and avoiding injury as an amateur. And it's a lesson weekend warriors can learn from, too.

"The professional athlete culture says play now and check it out later. And you always had a trainer to get you through, whether it was a smashed hand or a stiff neck," he explains. "But once I [no longer had] trainers and that culture around me, I found out that preventive health care has to be part of my life."

Never play through the pain. Even Boomer won't do it anymore!

Baby boomers such as Boomer are lucky, Kremchek says. Today's sports medicine means that most people can continue to play the sports they love for as long as they like -- provided they learn new tricks.

Here are some tips for baby boomers from the AAOS:

  • Warm up and stretch before any physical activity. "I stress the fact that warm-up and stretching are two different things," Kremchek says. "You warm up first, get a little sweat going, then stretch -- and maybe, if it's cold out, warm up again. The older you are, the stiffer your body is. So you have to spend that time."
  • Don't exercise just on the weekends. weekend warriors need weekday activity -- at least 30 minutes every day.
  • Take lessons, even if you've been playing a sport for a long time.
  • Use good equipment, especially the shoes appropriate for your sport. Replace equipment as soon as it starts to look worn.
  • Pay attention to your body. "A sharp pain or a very uncomfortable feeling is probably an injury," Kremchek says. "Have a doctor look at it. Remember, the longer it goes on, the harder it will be to get back from."
  • The 10% rule: Don't increase your usual activity by more than 10% at a time. If you normally walk two miles, don't jump to 12 miles. Build up endurance gradually, especially when weight training.
  • Balance your activity. All sports require strength, flexibility, and endurance. So your fitness program should include weight training, stretching, and cardiovascular exercise.
  • If you have -- or had -- a sport injury such as tendinitis, consult a sports medicine professional to develop the fitness routine that is best for you.

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