Many sports injuries that occur during middle age are the result of inconsistent exercise, excess body weight and pushing the body past reasonable limits. If a person has exercised consistently up to age 40, he or she is less likely to develop any injuries as middle age progresses. Most injuries occur when a middle aged person who has been sedentary for a long period of time takes up a sport or starts exercising. Jumping in too quickly is a contributing factor to all of the following sports injuries which are commonly suffered by middle aged “weekend warriors.”
Knees are particularly susceptible to injury among athletes of all ages. Ligaments are tough fibrous connective tissues that loosely connect bones to each other. Several important ligaments are responsible for holding the knee together. The anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments are the two largest and are the most prone to injury. These ligaments can be injured or even ruptured by twisting, falling or directly striking the knee. Some knee injuries occur because of a random event, such as a fall, but most knee injuries can be preventing by avoiding contact sports and sports and other exercises that include jumping.
Tendonitis among middle aged athletes is generally caused by not stretching properly and pushing the body by continuing to exercise even after pain sets in. Tendons are the fibrous tissue that connects muscles to bones. The Achilles tendon and tendons in the knee are particularly prone to injury. In some cases, damage to nearby muscles can put additional stress on the tendons which leads to tendonitis. The risk of tendonitis can be lowered by wearing properly fitting footwear, using shock-absorbing heel cushions, lightly stretching before exercise and by not exercising excessively, especially if the tendons start to cause pain.
The feet are responsible for supporting the weight of the entire body. Muscle strains of the foot are common among middle aged people who jump right into a sport or exercise routine after long periods of not exercising. Plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the connective tissue of the foot, is another common foot injury. Carrying a few extra pounds can make feet more susceptible to injury. The best ways to prevent injury to the foot are to wear proper footwear with adequate arch support, maintain a healthy weight, stretch before exercising and start off slowly in a new sport or exercise regimen.
Like most sports injuries, stress fractures can happen to any age athlete. Stress fractures are small cracks that develop in a bone and occur most frequently in the femur, tibia, fibula and bones of the foot. Stress fractures do not cause the bone to break in two but can grow larger and cause intense pain and serious damage if left untreated. The most common cause of stress fractures is repetitive stress on a bone, such as running or jumping repeatedly. A sedentary person who suddenly increases activity level is more prone to stress fractures. Bone structure, especially in women, may begin to weaken as middle age progresses and this factor also contributes to stress fractures. To avoid stress fractures, doctors recommend building up strength before increasing exercise intensity and engaging in low-impact exercises such as swimming or walking.
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Gary Nettles is a physical therapist who frequently works with patients who have suffered sports injuries. He recently contributed to the Physical Therapist Career Guide.