This weekend I took my family to see a New York Liberty game. In addition to be a very exciting game, I got to see my cousin Katie Smith play. It has been along time since I have seen her play. She has played professional basketball since graduating college 17 years ago. She has just celebrated her 39th birthday 2 weeks ago and has not lost a step. She was amazing. She has always been a very dedicated player with magnificent work ethic. I believe her attention to her training has allowed her to be able to maintain her high level of play over the years. So what are the concerns in an aging athlete? What can you do to prevent injury? Here are some tips.
First, the warm up. Warming up is stretching the muscles and ligaments. In an older athlete this may take longer and is essential to prevent injuries. Also, as we age our vascular system responds slower to exercise so we need a longer warm up period slowly increasing the exercises intensity.
Secondly we lose flexibility as we age. Loss of flexibility is a natural effect of aging that can be counteracted through a program of daily stretching. The repetitive movements involved in practicing any sport for a long period of time results in muscular imbalances that get progressively more extreme.
Next, it is much more important as we age to increase stregth training. As we age we lose muscle mass. Most of the muscle mass lost due to the aging process is classified as type II, or ‘fast twitch' muscle fibers. These type II fibers are faster to contract and therefore give us our strength and power. In contrast Type I, or ‘slow twitch' muscle fibers are slow to contract and contribute to muscular endurance. The loss of overall muscle mass and muscle strength causes joints to bear greater stress during exercise, rather that dissipating it to surrounding muscle tissue. This extra stress to the joints commonly leads to athletic injuries such as tendonitis, ligament sprains, musculo-tendinous strains, as well as arthritis.
Lastly, take more time to recover. Older athletes need to allow themselves more time to recover between their most demanding training sessions.
Changing the way you train can increase the longetivity of your activities.
GOOD LUCK #30! Go New York Liberty!
Dr. Alexandra "Sandie" Grulke