The Weekend Warrior's Guide to Eight Common Injuries
Get hurt during a workout last weekend? You're not alone. Exercise-obsessed baby boomers are reluctant to slow down as they agebut sometimes their bodies have different ideas. People with sports injuriesled by boomersare now the No. 2 group coming into the doctor's office, behind those complaining of a cold. And most of their aches and pains can be traced to a few common injuries that doctors see over and over.
We asked three specialists to offer advice on how to avoid the most common sports injuries and what to do if you're sidelined by one. Our experts: Nicholas DiNubile, an orthopedic surgeon based in Havertown, Pa., and author of FrameWork; Scott Rodeo, an orthopedic surgeon and researcher at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York; and Andrew Chen, an orthopedic surgeon based in Littleton, N.H., who is a spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
As a rule of thumb, if you feel sharp or stabbing pain (as opposed to sore muscles) during activitystop! If the pain doesn't go away after a few days off and some ice, seek medical advice. Here are several other guidelines for the injuries doctors see most often:
Rotator cuff problems
What goes wrong: The four muscles that sit right above your shoulder joint can get caught between the bones in the shoulder and upper arm, causing tendinitis and eventually a tear.
Who gets it: Weight lifters, swimmers, tennis players, volleyball players, baseball pitchers
Ways to prevent it: Ask a trainer to make sure your weight routine works all the rotator cuff muscles, not just the front part. How to fix it: Until it's healed, avoid aggravating it with repetitive motion or overhead weight lifting. If it doesn't get better with time, you may need surgery.
The latest treatment: Having blood drawn before surgery to isolate growth factor-containing platelets. Technicians then concentrate those platelets into something resembling a wad of chewing gum, which is put into the cuff to speed healing.
What goes wrong: Repetitive motion can cause tendinitis on either side of the elbow.
Who gets it: Tennis players (tennis elbow), racquetball and squash players, fencers, golfers (golfer's elbow)
Ways to prevent it: Ask a coach or a pro to make sure your technique is correct. One wrong move, repeated hundreds of times, can easily cause injury.
How to fix it: It usually doesn't require surgery, but you may need a brace or splint while you're taking time off to heal.
The latest treatment: The same platelet-concentrating technique used for the rotator cuff is being studied for tennis elbow.
What goes wrong: The cartilage in the knee breaks down, allowing the bones to rub together.
Who gets it: Could be anybody: One likely cause is something called "malalignment," where the upper and lower legs don't line up correctly. Being bowlegged or knock-kneed can make cartilage damage more likely.
Ways to prevent it: To counteract malalignment, your doc may prescribe physical therapy. Regular exercise can also help strengthen and balance the body.
How to fix it: If you've already got knee arthritis, avoid high-impact activities (it may be worth swapping running for something less stressful, like in-line skating). In the most debilitating cases, a knee replacement is the best option, but once you've got an artificial joint, you've got to treat it tenderlyno more full-court basketball.
The latest treatment: Gender-specific knee replacements the manufacturer claims will allow for differences in size and bone structure
What goes wrong: Cartilage in the hip breaks down, allowing the bones to rub together.
Who gets it: Again, a wide range of people. As with arthritis of the knee, malalignment, genetics, age, and old injuries all may play a part.
Ways to prevent it: Stay slim. Extra weight loads down the joints.
How to fix it: To prevent its damaging effects and stave off a full joint replacement for as long as possible, cut out the pounding workouts like running and aerobics, but do lower-impact exercises such as swimming or cycling to keep your weight down and get blood circulating.
The latest treatment: Hip resurfacing surgery doesn't require removal of the top of the femur the way a total replacement does. Instead, the surgeon shaves off just the top of the femur and covers it with a metal cap. Sparing the bone means a full replacement can always be done later, if necessary.
Knee cartilage tear
What goes wrong: The cartilage in your knee rips.
Who gets it: Anyone who squats. In sports, that would be baseball catchers, weight lifters, and football players.
Ways to prevent it: Protect your knees by building up your quads with cycling.
How to fix it: Surgeons often remove the damaged part of the meniscus, the cartilage that cushions your knee.
The latest treatment: A collagen scaffold, which is attached to the remaining meniscus and allows new tissue to grow, is available in Europe. It's still being studied for use in the United States.
What goes wrong: The anterior cruciate ligament, which runs diagonally through the knee joint, tears.
Who gets it: All kinds of athletes, but women are especially vulnerablepossibly because of hip structure, differences in strength, and conditioning.
Ways to prevent it: Try tai chi to improve your balance.
How to fix it: Surgery is common if the ACL is badly torn and the knee is unstable.
The latest treatment: Rather than replacing the torn ACL with one bundle of tendon fibers, some doctors are trying a technique that uses two bundles, to more closely mimic the anatomy of the original ligament. But the jury's out on how it stacks up against prevailing treatment.
What goes wrong: Tendons lose their elasticity with age, making them vulnerable to irritation and inflammation.
Who gets it: Runners, especially older ones. Ramping up the volume or intensityespecially by running hillscan lead to Achilles problems.
Ways to prevent it: Stretch your calvesask a trainer to teach you how to stretch the soleus, the smaller muscle that runs down the back of your calf.
How to fix it: Rest. Use ice and possibly anti-inflammatories.
The latest treatment: Research suggests that "eccentric training" using heavy loadsin this case, certain calf exercises that lengthen the muscles as they are trying to contractcan improve the pain and disability of Achilles tendinitis.
What goes wrong: Back muscles get strained, disks degenerate, and nerves are pinched.
Who gets it: Who doesn't? A full 80 percent of the population will experience significant back pain at some point.
Ways to prevent it: Your mother was right: Stand up straight! Having correct posture can fend off strain and pain.
How to fix it: Treatment runs the gamut from light exercise and a heating pad to major surgery, depending on the severity and type of pain.
The latest treatment: Recent studies suggest surgery helps people with a condition called degenerative spondylolisthesis with spinal stenosis (when a vertebra slips out of alignment, eventually causing the spinal column to narrow and pinching nerves). People with sciatica, which is caused by a disk pressing against a nerve, are likely to get better over time, with or without surgery.