Injury Prevention Tips for the Middle-Aged Athlete

Middle-aged man playing tennis

Middle-aged man playing tennis

There’s no age limit for healthy living, and there’s no rule that you have to stop running, playing sports, or enjoying vigorous outdoor activity once you hit 30, or 40, or 50, or beyond. We encourage our patients of all ages to be active, for good reason.

That being said, there’s a reason they say Father Time is undefeated. Like it or not, we all go through a series of physical changes as we get older. Maximum heart rate slows. Lung capacity decreases. Muscle mass is lost. That doesn’t mean you should quite while you’re ahead—the opposite is true! It does mean, however, that you may have to take some different precautions to protect yourself from foot and ankle sports injuries as you reach middle age.

For example, Achilles injuries—tendinitis or even ruptures—are much more likely among athletes in their 30s through 50s than any other age group. That’s partly due to aging tendons that lack the strength and flexibility of their younger selves, and partly due to inadequate training or preparation: many active adults fit the profile of the “weekend warrior,” alternating between action-packed weekends and relatively sedentary workweeks. That, unfortunately, can often lead to increased injury risk.

Other common sports injuries in older athletes may include plantar fasciitis, bursitis, shin splints, stress fractures, hamstring injuries, neuromas, and more.

In order to manage your risk, try some of these tips:

  • Always make sure your athletic shoes fit properly, are appropriate for your sport or activity, and are replaced when worn (around every 300 miles for runners).
  • Consider orthotics or prefabricated inserts to correct any deformity or gait issues that may be contributing to excess foot or leg pain.
  • Always take time to stretch, warm up, and cool down.
  • Don’t jump into new activities with reckless abandon! If you’re trying a new sport or gearing up for activity after a relatively sedentary period, ease into it. Start slow and gradually increase the intensity of your activity each week.
  • Vary your workouts to avoid overuse injuries. If you like a lot of high-impact exercise (like running or basketball), switch to low-impact activities (like cycling or swimming) during off days.
  • If you’re a runner dealing with frequent foot pain, try softer running surfaces such as grass or dirt instead of asphalt and concrete.
  • Know your limits and listen to what your body is telling you. Take regular breaks. Make sure you’re getting plenty of water and good nutrition. Above all, don’t push yourself too far. Obviously a certain level of tiredness or minor aches are normal with exercise, but serious fatigue or pain is a warning sign that you’re hurt or that you need to slow down for a while.

By following these tips, along with good common sense, you can reduce your injury risk and enjoy healthy activity long into your middle and later years. For more preventative care strategies, or direct help dealing with a foot or ankle sports injury, please contact the experts at North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute. You can use our online contact form or call us at 512-593-2949 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Keith McSpadden in either Cedar Park or Round Rock, TX.

Posted on April 5, 2016 and filed under Sports Injury.