Sports Injuries Sending Boomers to Doc in Droves

June 6, 2006 — -- For nearly 77 million baby boomers, sports-related injuries have become the No. 2 reason for doctor visits behind the common cold.

Medical professionals call it "boomeritis," a term coined by Nicholas DiNubile, an orthopedic surgeon and author of "Framework: Your 7-Step Program for Healthy Muscles, Bones and Joints."

"I coined that term in jest," DiNubile said. "I couldn't go to the gym without two or three people coming up to me -- sore shoulders, bum knee, backs that go out more than they do."

"In my office, I was seeing the same thing. I began to realize that the baby boomers are the first generation trying to sty active in droves, and they're getting into trouble."

As people in the United States continue to run, bike, shoot jump shots, hit softballs, and stroke forehands, the National Institutes of Health estimates that up to 70 million have arthritis.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says that about 4.1 million people seek medical care for knee problems and that more than 450,000 knee and hip replacements are performed every year.

Among middle-age adults, infirmities associated with athletic activity were the source of 488 million days of restricted work in 2002, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics study.

"We've outlived the warranty on our frame so the real question is how do you extend the warranty on that frame," DiNubile said.

DiNubile recommends simple guidelines for boomers to exercise safely:

Follow the 10 Percent Rule

Never increase your workout by more than 10 percent a week. If you start running 10 miles one week, you shouldn't run more than 11 miles the next week.

Warm Up and Stretch

Muscle groups tighten up with age. In particular, you should try to work the four most important groups -- calves, hamstrings, the lower back, and the front of the shoulders.


There is no one ideal workout, and boomers need to cover all of the bases. The four main types of workouts are cardiovascular, strength, core and stretching. It's very important that people older than 40 do all four.

Toughen Weak Links

Everyone has points of vulnerability, and you need to learn to strengthen them or learn to work safely around them. For example, if you've had an injury, you know that's an area that you should pay particular attention to. Make sure to stretch and build up the muscles in that area or tailor your workout to exercises that do not put stress on that area.

DiNubile said that if you sustained an injury that required surgery, you should find a specialist like a knee surgeon or a hand surgeon.

"Things start happening around the 40th birthday," DiNubile said. "Things you were [once] able to do when you were 20 or 30, now your body is different and you have to change you mindset."