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Ouch! How to avoid getting ‘boomeritis’

Marjorie Albohm of the National Athletic Trainers' Association offers prevention tips to help active, aging baby boomers stay injury-free.
/ Source: TODAY

In 2006, the oldest of the baby boomers — the generation born between 1946 and 1964 — turned 60. And as they try to stay active, injuries are on the rise. The National Athletic Trainers' Association and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons have teamed up to help prevent “boomeritis.” Marjorie Albohm, vice president of NATA, visited “Today” to discuss ways this generation can remain full of life.

As a whole, baby boomers are the first generation of Americans who are staying active on their aging body frames. More than 76 million in all, their ages range from 41 to 60. With no time to waste, they are joining health clubs at a stupendous rate — up 135 percent between 1987 and 2001, reported America Sports Data, Inc. And they account for nearly one-third of all Americans who participated in bicycling, basketball, baseball, running and other sports in 1998, according to the latest statistics available from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. 

Unfortunately, this intense physical activity is taking its toll. “Because of their aging frame, many are experiencing ‘boomeritis’ — musculoskeletal problems, which include tendonitis, bursitis, arthritis and sports-related injuries,” said Nicholas DiNubile, MD, orthopaedic surgeon and Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). 

In 1998, boomers suffered more than one million such injuries, which amounted to nearly $19 billion in medical costs. Between 1991 and 1998, the ailments increased about 33 percent, resulting in more than 365,000 hospital emergency room visits.

“Standard workouts and training sessions designed for 20- and 30-year-olds will not work for boomers,” said Marjorie J. Albohm, MS, ATC, vice president of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA). “Boomers and fitness professionals must recognize this and adapt.”

To help America’s newest, soon-to-be seniors, stay strong, healthy and boomeritis-free, AAOS and NATA have teamed up on a “Prevent Boomeritis Injuries” PSA campaign. The main goal of this campaign is to encourage boomers to do the following:

  • Customize your workouts based on your individual fitness level and goals.
  • Learn how to do core body exercises, which protect the extremities from potential injury and/or re-injury. Such exercises are often performed with an exercise ball, and include general stretching, abdominal exercises, upper and lower body exercises, and trunk exercises that focus on back stability and balance exercises.
  • Identify your “weak links,” or points of vulnerability, caused by previous injury or overuse. These “weak links” need special attention, and exercise modifications should be made accordingly. Identifying them is relatively easy: listen to your body; recognize symptoms of pain and discomfort; and then modify the exercise. If you have muscle, bone or joint problems, consider lower impact aerobic routines and lighter loads with weight training.
  • Embrace cross-training — which includes aerobic or cardiovascular activities, strength training and stretching — for truly balanced fitness. Also known as closed chain exercises, these routines involve the total body instead of focusing on individual parts.
  • Always warm up before exercise or sports.
  • Focus on positive lifestyle changes.
  • Eating healthy is key to maintaining appropriate body weight. Take calcium and vitamins to keep your bones and joints healthy and strong.
  • Learn to listen to your body. If you have problems with aches and pains, see an orthopaedic surgeon and certified athletic trainer who can help you on the path to recovery. Exercise shouldn't be a pain!

“The most common types of injuries that occur to baby boomers are often the result of years of overuse to the musculoskeletal system; old injuries that occur again; the normal ‘wear and tear’ of tendons and joints; and muscle loss associated with aging,” said Dr. DiNubile.  “Because of age-related changes, boomers’ bodies are just more vulnerable.”

“It is important that baby boomers learn to listen to their bodies and seek expert help to prevent injuries from happening,” said Albohm.

Athletic trainers are health care providers who specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses that occur in active people of all ages.  Orthopaedic surgeons are essential for diagnosing and treating bone, joint and muscle-related injuries and getting boomers back in action.

More resources
About the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)With more than 28,000 members, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons,(www.aaos.org) or (www.orthoinfo.org), is a not-for-profit organization that advocates improved patient care, provides education programs for orthopaedic surgeons, allied health professionals and the public. 

About the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA)
Athletic trainers are unique health care providers who specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses. The National Athletic Trainers' Association (www.nata.org) represents and supports 30,000 members of the athletic training profession through education and research.