Aging Athletes: Exercise With or Without Joint Replacement

Baby boomers were the first American generation to make daily exercise a priority, and today, many baby boomers are defying the myth that you have to stop playing your favorite sport as you age. However, as much as they hate to admit, their aging bodies are not as elastic as they once were, and previous athletic injuries may catch up with them as they age. Decline in athletic performance accelerates after the age of 60, and recovery times from injuries increase.

Musculoskeletal conditions and injuries are very common in aging athletes, including muscle strains, tendinopathy (rotator cuff tears, Achilles tendon tears, etc), meniscal tears with osteoarthritis in the knees, or worse — fractures.

As you age, it is very important that you listen to your body and treat your aches and pains with care.

What are some tips for preventing injury?

-Stretch, warm up, and cool down. The importance of stretching increases as you age. Stretching and proper warm-up and cool-down exercises will prevent injury and will keep your body nimble.

–Avoid abruptly changing your exercise activity level or regimen.

-Allow for adequate recovery time for your body. Don’t do too much at once because your body takes longer to adjust to change.

-Cross-train: Alternate your exercise routines so that you strengthen different muscles. This will help you avoid overuse injuries.

-Invest in some good, supportive shoes.

-The standard regimen of R.I.C.E: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation is important for people of all ages who struggle with athletic aches and pains.

What about athletes who need joint replacement?

Aging athletes can have joint replacement and still be active. In fact, they should definitely remain active! Although some people may be able to return to hard-impact sports like tennis, jogging, and rock-climbing, surgeons recommend that post-replacement athletes should consider lower impact exercise, such as swimming, cycling, yoga, or the elliptical. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery (AAOS) does not recommend running after a total knee replacement, but some partial knee replacement patients have been able to return to running. Modern total joints are proving to hold up to hard-impact sports fairly well, but every case is different. If you have a total joint replacement and are eager to get back to the activity level you crave, please speak with your surgeon about possibilities.

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