As an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports injuries, my office is increasingly full of “weekend warriors”. Typically over forty and far too busy with work during the week, these part-time athletes try to pack a week’s worth of exercise into two days, anxious to simultaneously rekindle the sporting highs of their youth and reduce their cholesterol. Fuelled by power bars, electrolyte drinks and industrial strength anti-inflammatories, they do battle on the trails and fields of the city, understanding that while Monday and Tuesday might be a little uncomfortable, by the following Saturday they will once again be ready for action.
Unfortunately, far too many of these individuals are finding out that this lifestyle has cumulative detrimental effects on bodies not quite as forgiving as they were twenty years ago. Surprisingly, while most remain proactive with regard to diet, cholesterol and blood pressure, very few take any preventative steps to protect their muscles and joints from the weekend assault. Fortunately, a few simple measures can go a long way towards preventing injury and allowing you to be active for decades to come.
Two of the most important first steps are cross-training and sport-specific training. Although the week may be too busy for a full-fledged workout, thirty minutes on two or three days can be used to improve fitness, flexibility and core strength. The value of this athletic “holy trinity” cannot be overstated. Seventy-five percent of knee strength and stability come from the hips and core. I recommend the FIFA 11+ fitness program designed for soccer players for the development of essential core strength. Pilates, Tai Chi and Yoga, although not quite as adrenalin-inducing as weekend sporting events can also help prevent an early exit from the season.
Warming up and cooling down are vital. There is a high incidence of injury in the first fifteen minutes of any activity, so making sure muscles and joints are warm and flexible before you start is essential. Remain hydrated throughout any sports program. Stretching after a run or bike ride and using ice on areas that you know will be a problem also serves as valuable preventative therapy. Regular massage therapy can also help address problem areas before they become serious.
Articular cartilage composition begins to deteriorate in your 30s (sad but true!!), so I also recommend taking supplements to support your joints before you reach the point of the annoyingly persistent pain that usually starts in your 40s. I recommend Jamieson NEM (Natural Eggshell Membrane) to support the joints and prevent inflammation, along with a minimum daily dose of 1,000 mg of Omega-3. A health regime built on prevention is your best health insurance.
And finally, if you are injured, let your body heal! A mild sprain that might keep you out for a couple of weeks can turn into a season-ending injury if you go back too early.
About Dr. Reed
Dr. Stephen Reed BM. BCh. MA(Oxford) MSc(Toronto) FRCSC
Stephen Reed is a Toronto-trained orthopaedic surgeon and a graduate of Oxford University Medical School. He has obtained specialty fellowship surgical training in England, Australia and at the Orthopaedic and Arthritic Hospital in Toronto, Canada. He has master’s degrees from Oxford University and the University of Toronto and has published extensively in the field of orthopaedic literature. Dr. Reed has co-authored four best-selling books with his wife, Naturopathic Doctor Penny Kendall-Reed: “The New Naturopathic Diet”, “Healing Arthritis”, a comprehensive review of traditional and complementary therapy for arthritis, “The Complete Doctor’s Healthy Back Bible”, a review of the causes, diagnosis and treatment of back pain, and most recently “The Complete Doctor’s Stress Solution”, a comprehensive look at the health consequences of chronic stress and how to avoid them. He is currently on staff at the Humber River Hospital specializing in knee and shoulder problems.