A Healthy Guide for the Aging Athlete

Dr. Eric Chehab holds board certifications in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine. He works with the Illinois Bone and Joint Institute and is affiliated with the NorthShore University HealthSystem at the Evanston and Glenbrook hospitals.

Unfortunately, as we age, we may find ourselves unable to do the things we enjoy as well as we used to. Dr. Eric Chehab from the Illinois Bone and Joint Institute answers the most critical questions the aging athlete should ask. Because with proper care, your age is the last thing that should slow you down.

Am I at a greater risk of injury because of my age?

There is no question that wear and tear over time can cause knees, hips, shoulder, backs and ankles to ache with activity. But that is the key…most joints will provide feedback when overloaded. If a joint is stressed beyond its threshold, it will become painful and/or swollen. It is that biofeedback that is so critical to avoiding injury. As long as these critically important warning signs are heeded, injury is really no more likely than in any other athlete.

What are signs of injury?

Pain and/or swelling that persist beyond a few hours after exercise is a clear sign of injury and should be evaluated by a physician.

How can I treat a painful/swollen joint?

It’s called R.I.C.E. therapy. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. R.I.C.E. is a good initial treatment. But if the pain persists, consult a physician.

Are there limits set by my age?

There are physiologic limits of heart rate. In essence, the older we become, the lower our maximum heart rate becomes, which affects our ability to pump oxygen to the exercising muscles. However, the muscles will utilize oxygen efficiently in older athletes and patients without a history of cardiovascular disease and are likely able to tolerate exercise without a preset limit. However, bone density becomes less as we age. Therefore, older athletes may be at a higher risk of stress fractures. Pay attention to what your body is telling you through pain and swelling.

What are keys to injury prevention?

1) Flexibility – Warm up and stretch.

2) Endurance – Progressive exercise is the key to building or rebuilding endurance.

3) Cool down – Following exercise, take a period of time to walk, stretch, and if particular joints are sore, apply the R.I.C.E. therapy for treatment.

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