Banged-up boomers: How to treat, prevent and avoid injuries

Karen Sorensen

"Boomeritis" -- aching joints, strained tendons and other maladies from overdoing sports or exercise -- is the No. 2 reason baby boomers will visit their doctor, according to a National Ambulatory Medical Care survey.

Dr. Wade McAlister, a Houston-based orthopedic surgeon and spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and Julie Ann McCarthy, a sports medicine physical therapist in San Francisco, offer advice on how to avoid injuries.

Rotator cuff tear

Symptoms: Constant dull pain becomes sharp when you move your arm up or out. The arm will be weak and isn’t able to lift things. Repetitive shoulder movement can cause it, as can using excessive force to break a fall or falling directly on the shoulder.

Treatment: Take anti-inflammatory medicine and treat it with rest, immobilization, compression and elevation for three or four days. If there's no improvement, see a doctor. Physical therapy may be needed. Arthroscopic surgery is the final resort.

Prevention: Learn proper form and warm-up techniques when doing a sport involving the shoulder. Since it often occurs when someone falls from a bike or trips while running, watch where you're going and stay off of roads that might put you at a risk.


Symptoms: Dull pain occurs when you move your elbow, knee, wrist or other joint. A repetitive motion, such as lifting weights, running or swinging a tennis racquet or golf club, strains the muscle that moves the joint.

Treatment: Anti-inflammatory medicine and ice will help, as will rest, immobilization, compression and elevation. If there's no improvement in three or four days, see a doctor. Physical therapy can help strengthen muscles and eliminate pain in a few weeks.

Prevention: Learn to properly stretch and warm up before exercising or participating in sports. Get advice to ensure you're doing a sport correctly. If you do something strenuous one day, do something easier the next.

Fractured hip

Symptoms: Sudden, extreme pain occurs in the hip and groin area. You will be unable to stand or walk without assistance. Typically results from someone falling off a bike or tripping while running or playing sports.

Treatment: Get to the hospital immediately. Surgical treatment involving a partial hip replacement or the insertion of a rod and screw or plate and screw will be needed. Outpatient rehab will follow.

Prevention: Know your limits; bones are far more brittle and muscles less flexible as people age. Drink water to keep muscles loose and to prevent heat stroke and other ailments that might cause you to fall.