More and more health care providers are seeing an increase in “Boomeritis,” a term coined by Nicholas DiNubile in 1999, referring to the musculoskeletal injuries that the aging athlete in the baby boomer generation, 1946-1964, are experiencing. This group of athletes is the first generation to grow up exercising and continue exercising well into their 70s. The musculoskeletal injuries in Boomeritis include tendon, muscle, and ligament tears and stress fractures. While these injuries can happen at any age, physiologic changes with age make this generation more susceptible to developing these problems.
Unfortunately, no matter what we do to prevent it, athletic performance declines with age. Modest decreases occur at age 50-60 years; after that is a more progressive, steeper decline1. The aging process has been linked to decreased muscle mass and muscle function referred to as sacropenia1. There is an average loss of 15% of muscle mass between the ages of 30 and 60 and a loss of 30% after age 601. These changes are associated with decreased stamina, increased insulin resistance, and generalized loss of force and power1. Aging also affects our tendons, basically increasing their stiffness, causing tendinopathy – a painful condition occurring in and around tendons in response to overuse.
Along with tendon and muscle changes, considerable bone loss can occur with aging in men and women; however, menopause and a decrease in circulating estrogens in women are more severely affected than men1. The aging process can alter the pathophysiology of bone, causing osteoporosis if untreated.
These physiologic changes in bone, muscle, and tendon result in a general decrease in these musculoskeletal components’ ability to withstand high-impact physical activities.
There is good news, though; it has been shown that lifelong physical activity can slow the overall loss of bone and muscle mass that occurs with aging1. This being said, we want to support and encourage physical activity among aging individuals despite the increased risk of musculoskeletal injuries that can occur due to aging.
If you are experiencing any musculoskeletal symptoms preventing you from staying physically active and doing what you love, seek help from a physical therapist. Start by scheduling a Free Assessment where one of our experts can assess your functional strength and mobility and recommend a customized treatment program to fit your needs.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
1. Quatman C, Yu J. The Aging Athlete: Part 1, “Boomeritis” of the Lower Extremity. AJR. 2012; 199: 295-306.
2. Quatman C, Yu J. The Aging Athlete: Part 2, “Boomeritis” of the Upper Extremity. AJR. 2012; 199: 307-321.