Boomeritis Contributes to Injury in Active Adults
September 15, 2003
By Adrian Brune for Knee1
As men and women hit their late 40s and early 50s, they hear a lot of health-related words with "itis" attached to them; especially related to joints and muscles – bursitis, tendonitis and, the worst, arthritis.
But a new social condition – one related to the "Weekend Warrior Syndrome" – could be contributing to all of those diagnoses at nearby doctor’s offices.
It’s called "Boomeritis" and it has been plaguing tennis courts, health club treadmills and local basketball gyms since the fitness trend of recent years. It comes when Baby Boomers push themselves a little too hard to the point of injury by exercise.
"There is a mini-explosion of these injuries," said Dr. Nicholas DiNubile, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and the man who coined the term. "Boomers are unique in they’re the first generation trying to stay active on an aging frame to this degree."
Even though Baby Boomers – those born between the years 1946 and 1964 – are one of the most active groups when it comes to physical fitness, they may have to slow it down a bit if they are going to avoid wrecking their joints
and the nation’s emergency health care system. Boomers suffered more than 1 million sports injuries in 1998, according to figures from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, representing a 33 percent increase since 1991. They also spend more than $18 billion a year on medical costs stemming from sports-related injuries.
Of course, as time goes by, general wear and tear will take its toll on the body; around 40, muscles start to waste a little and some inactive adults by their 60s can lose 30 percent of their muscle mass. Doctors attribute this to Boomeritis. "When you were 10, you bounced right back — you’d get a bruise and it would go away quickly,” said Dr. Angela Smith, president of the American College of Sports Medicine. "In older people, tissues are more fragile and don’t heal as well. A bruise can last much longer and the muscle stays sore."
But a big symptom of Boomeritis seems to be attitude: The Boomers want to work out with the same intensity as they did when they were younger, and that seems to be the culprit that isn’t allowing their bodies to heal.
Another, according to DiNuible, is overuse of one particular part of the body. For runners, it could be a knee; rowers, a shoulder, or tennis players, a lower back. Boomers with Boomeritis don’t want to diversify their workouts.
The good news is that Boomeritis is a curable condition, even among the most stubborn of Baby Boomers: the "weekend warrior" – the ex-jock who doesn’t
moderate, crams exercise into two days and yes, avoids a warm-up. Other than stretching and learning the proper technique from tennis and golf pros and personal trainers, orthopedic surgeons recommend boomers invest in good equipment as well as vary up their exercise routine to include cardio, strength training and flexibility in some form at least 30 minutes per day.
Another good idea is to use the ten percent rule, which is the rule that guides exercisers wanting to increase activity level to increase it in increments of no more than ten percent per week. Finally, doctors advise boomers to listen to their bodies. If it hurts, just stop and don’t push it.
"We have a generation that is living longer and staying active into their 40s and 50s. No other generation did this," DiNubile said. "You have to be smart about what you do and realize that at 50, you can't do what you did
when you were 20."
For more information, contact the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.