THE NEW RULES OF OVER­COM­ING A SPORTS IN­JURY

You did the week­end-war­rior thing and now you’ve wrecked your knee. Sound fa­mil­iar? Here’s how to safely and strate­gi­cally over­come in­jury.

Best Health - - CONTENTS - | by DIANA BAL­LON

Don’t let an in­jury keep you from your A-game

RID­ING THE WAVES OFF THE SHORES OF TOFINO ON Van­cou­ver Is­land had al­ways been a fan­tasy of mine. And for a while – well, maybe for a few mo­ments – I re­al­ized that dream. Mov­ing with the strength of the cur­rent, against the back­drop of blue wa­ter and sky, I ac­tu­ally stood up on the board and felt my­self glid­ing for­ward.

That was un­til I fell. My body turned in the wa­ter and, pop, my an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment (ACL), the cen­tral of four lig­a­ments in my knee, snapped. I tore an­other lig­a­ment and my menis­cus at the same time.

It was the first big phys­i­cal in­jury I’d sus­tained, which is pretty good for a 51-year-old. But spend­ing weeks on crutches, fol­lowed by lim­ited mo­bil­ity, put me into a funk.

I’ve cer­tainly learned some lessons along the way about in­juries, about cop­ing when your body fails you and about fig­ur­ing how to strengthen body parts that do work when oth­ers let you down.

These are good lessons to learn. As we age, we be­come more prone to in­juries and these in­juries can take longer to heal. Af­ter menopause, our es­tro­gen drops, our bones be­come stiffer and more brit­tle and our mus­cle bulk and strength de­cline slowly. Our to­tal body wa­ter de­creases, and the col­la­gen in our ten­dons and lig­a­ments loses elas­tic­ity. None of this is good. Our metabolic rate also slows down, which can of­ten lead to weight gain and put more pres­sure on our joints.

For­tu­nately, there’s plenty we can do to help pre­vent in­jury, or work through an in­jury if it does arise. But learn­ing how to man­age in­juries isn’t just about learn­ing to cope with phys­i­cal com­plaints. “In­jury starts out as a bi­o­log­i­cal event but very quickly be­comes a cog­ni­tive and emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence as we ap­praise and in­ter­pret the event,” says Jill Tracey, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of ki­ne­si­ol­ogy at Wil­frid Lau­rier Univer­sity in Water­loo.

Whether we in­jure a knee, an­kle or shoul­der, the ram­i­fi­ca­tions can be the same. We may find our­selves isolated and un­able to do things we once en­joyed. We may feel less in­vin­ci­ble or sim­ply “old,” like our bod­ies are fail­ing us. And it can make us de­pressed: I rely on ex­er­cise as a mood sta­bi­lizer, so be­ing forced to with­draw cold turkey from en­dor­phin highs brought me, well, very low.

The Good News/Bad News Cy­cle

Be­cause women are more ac­tive now than ever be­fore, there is more re­search on ways to cope with ag­ing. We’ve de­vel­oped bet­ter di­ag­nos­tic tests, sur­gi­cal and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion tech­niques and train­ing over the past 15 to 20 years, says Tracey.

“We live in an age of re­place­able parts,” says Tracey.

But this has mixed bless­ings: Ar­ti­fi­cial joints can last for ap­prox­i­mately 20 years in peo­ple with seden­tary life­styles, but it’s un­clear how long they will last in peo­ple who re­turn to more ac­tive life­styles, and do ac­tiv­i­ties like ten­nis, run­ning and down­hill ski­ing, says Dr. Chris­tine Wal­ton, an or­tho­pe­dic sur­geon based in the Toronto area.

When we do get hurt, some­times fam­ily doc­tors don’t have time to give us the at­ten­tion we need. It’s hard to get in to see a spe­cial­ist. And phys­io­ther­apy and other forms of health care can be very ex­pen­sive. Un­for­tu­nately, there are no quick fixes. “In­stead, peo­ple need to take more own­er­ship over their own bod­ies,” says Dr. Wal­ton.

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