One of the truest maxims in sports is this: “Father Time remains undefeated.”
Of course, we’d like to add that there’s no age limit for healthy living, and we encourage all our patients of all ages and ability levels to lead physically active lives. That said, it can’t be denied that aging affects us all, and as time goes on we may need to learn new habits or skills in order to accommodate these changes. For example, in the case of Achilles tendon injuries, particularly tendon ruptures, middle-aged men (particularly guys in their 30s and 40s, but older active adults as well) are at elevated risk and should take extra precaution.
The middle ages are a kind of “sweet spot” for tearing the Achilles, for a number of reasons. People at that age may still have a lot of energy and desire to play tough sports with a lot of running and jumping—for example, tennis, running, or pickup basketball. At the same time, however, aging tendons are becoming weaker and more inflexible. Additionally, responsibilities such as work and child care may limit participation in sports or vigorous physical activity to certain seasons or only during the weekends. Unfortunately, this combination of declining tendon fitness and sudden spikes in physical activity can quickly lead to a serious injury.
That said, we don’t want to you to give up on being active or playing sports! We just encourage you to be aware of the risk and be smart about how you participate. That way, you have a better chance of staying healthy and active for the long haul. Here are some prevention tips:
- Ease into new activities. If you’ve been pretty sedentary lately, don’t charge into weekend tennis or a new running program full steam. Start slow and gradually increase intensity by, at most, 10 percent per week.
- Stretch your calves regularly and warm up properly before activities.
- Switch up your activities so you’re not always doing high-impact exercise. Try swimming, biking, or just going for a walk instead and give your tendons a bit of a break. If you’re a runner, choosing softer and more level terrain helps, too.
- Make sure your shoes are in good repair and are a good fit for your foot shape and type of activity. A good specialty shoe store can help you find the right fit, and we can provide an analysis to see if prefabricated inserts or custom orthotics would help.
Dr. Keith McSpadden is Austin’s No. 1 resource for dealing with sports injury pain in the feet or ankles. Let our team at North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute help you get back on your feet and up to speed after an Achilles tendon injury. Request an appointment online, or call us at 512-593-2949 today.