No matter the sport or the age, the latest trends in orthopedics ensure everyone can continue to lead an active lifestyle longer than ever.
Today, a 65-year-old can learn to play tennis for the first time without being hindered by osteoporosis or arthritis. Aquatic exercise can help an elderly patient have fun while also improving bone strength, and a student-athlete can recover more quickly from common sports injuries thanks to improved diagnoses.
It’s an exciting time in the orthopedic industry, according to several local doctors who say advancements in orthopedic research and treatment options are restoring mobility and reducing pain for patients. That means sore joints and achy bones will no longer put a kink in your daily life.
“We are so fortunate to live in the age that we live in,” says Dr. Craig Kimmel, director of Primary Care Sports Medicine at Lourdes Medical Associates. “Things have changed dramatically.”
Below, he and Dr. Thomas Dwyer of Premier Orthopaedic Associates of Southern New Jersey explain why bone health is important at every stage of life, and they discuss how three age groups—teens and student-athletes, baby boomers wanting to remain active, and the elderly—can address problem areas, maintain maximum bone strength and prevent injuries.
Teens and student-athletes
The most common bone and joint injuries among teens and student-athletes are caused by sports, obesity and heavy backpacks, according to our doctors and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
“There is a big trend in which kids today are emulating pro-athletes,” Kimmel says.
“Not that kids didn’t always want to be like their favorite star, but today they play soccer all year round. It really overloads the same joints and muscles by doing the same thing over and over again. The kids get burned out, and those overused joints create injuries. We see kids in little league with torn ligaments and stress fractures. It’s a disturbing trend.”
High school sports injuries can cause problems that require surgery as an adult and may lead to arthritis later in life, the American Academy for Orthopaedic Surgeons reports.
Kimmel suggests “taking a vacation from your sport” or trying multiple sports so you avoid continually adding stress and pressure to the same bones and joints. It’s important for teens to give their bodies a chance to rest and recover, he says.
It’s also important for teens to understand how obesity can affect their joints, even at a young age. The effects can be far-reaching and cause painful complications in adulthood, Dwyer says. “There is a direct correlation between one’s body weight and developing arthritis in the weight-bearing joints—hips, ankles, knees,” he says.
On the research front, there has been an increased awareness of misaligned kneecaps, which is among the most common pains affecting female athletes between ages 13 and 19, Dwyer says. Previously, this condition was often misdiagnosed as knee strain, he says.
“Changing the alignment back to normal prevents arthritis at a later age,” he says. “If not treated, by their mid-50s, what they can have is arthritis in their knee-cap joint, which can result in partial or total replacement.”
Several recent orthopedic advancements are positively impacting baby boomers, particularly those who want to remain active.
Orthovisc, a new lubricant shot that relieves knee pain for up to six months by replacing natural joint fluid, is helping patients restore mobility, and researchers are actively studying stem cell therapy and vitamin therapy, which could possibly help prevent or treat arthritis and chronic tendonitis. Also, gender-specific components are now available for knee replacement surgery, which is extremely beneficial for women, Dwyer says.
Kimmel says many patients are interested in the Tenex system, a noninvasive treatment developed by the Mayo Clinic. An option to traditional surgery, the in-office procedure removes scar tissue commonly associated with jumper’s knee or tennis elbow. Previously, those injuries would limit physical activity. Now, with this new procedure, a nearly painless incision—the size of a pencil point—is made, doctors locate the scar tissue and erase it in about four minutes, Kimmel says.
“You could have the procedure on a Friday and recover by Monday,” he says.
Orthopedic doctors are also taking a closer look at fitness-related issues and injuries among baby boomers, who, at an older age, are trying recreational activities like snowboarding, skiing, biking, soccer and swimming, Dwyer says.
“The biggest problem we’re seeing now is that 70 is the new 60, and 60 is the new 50. From an activity standpoint, people are engaging in activities much later in life,” he says. “That’s different from even 25 years ago.”
Kimmel agrees, adding, “We are a very active generation. We are different than our parents. We’re staying active longer, and we have greater expectations of our health and being able to participate in sports longer. There is more interest in fitness.”
Unlike young adults, though, it’s a bit more difficult for baby boomers to bounce back from a bone or joint injury. It’s important to note that moderation is key, and be sure to do a warm up and cool down when exercising or participating in physical activity, Kimmel suggests.
“Light strength training with resistance and revolving exercises are best,” he says. “I see [baby boomers] start doing Insanity or P90X. They go from doing nothing to doing 60 minutes of a workout a day that is really geared toward a younger age group. A lot of these exercises don’t take into account slight arthritis and that your joints need a little more TLC than they did when you were 18. It can be too much, too hard on older joints.”
For the elderly
Kimmel says the word “elderly” is being redefined as people live longer and healthier lives. When his grandfather was 65, he no longer drove, he recalls. “Now, you have 65 year olds who are taking up tennis for the first time,” he says. “It’s a more active generation.”
For people ages 75 and above, remaining active is the key to preventing aches, as well as more serious arthritis and osteoporosis issues. However, elderly patients must also understand their bone and joint needs are different than that of a 30 year old. He recommends enrolling in adaptive exercise courses, including yoga and aquatics, which are popular at area recreation and community centers.
“I’ve seen an influx in classes, and they help keep people mobile and more active,” he says, adding that falls and joint replacements for knees and hips are the top concerns among elderly patients. “It keeps your joints and muscles strong. Those kinds of classes can be beneficial, and they’re really good for the elderly.”
It’s an exciting time right now to work in orthopedics, Dwyer says. “Over the last 10 years, orthopedic surgeons have gone from relying primarily on procedures that use open incisions to almost exclusively using arthroscopic surgery. At the moment, there is promising research showing that we can actually promote healing without any incisions at all through stem cell research.”
Primary Care Sports Medicine at Lourdes Medical Associates
1 Brace Road, Suite B
Premier Orthopaedic Associates of Southern New Jersey
Locations in Elmer, Mullica Hill and Vineland
Published (and copyrighted) in the Art of Living Well pull-out section of Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 9 (November, 2013).
For more info on Suburban Family Magazine, click here.
For information about advertising in Suburban Family Magazine, click here.
To find out where to pick up your copy of Suburban Family Magazine, click here.