They say age is just a number. For many athletes, that’s never been more true.
German speed skater Claudia Pechstein made history as the oldest female athlete to compete at the 2022 Winter Olympics. And according to recent reports, Tom Brady has played longer in the NFL than his newly drafted teammate has been alive.
Older athletes compete more every day thanks to improvements in training, nutrition and sports medicine, said Ken Kenneth-Nwosa, MD, a sports medicine physician at UT Health San Antonio.
“We’re seeing this in all areas, not just professional sports,” said Dr. Kenneth-Nwosa, the head team physician for UTSA Athletics who sees patients at the UT Health Medical Arts and Research Center and the Hill Country. “People in their 60s are running marathons. That’s the new normal.”
Dr. Kenneth-Nwosa says the most important thing you can do to prevent sports injuries as you get older is to ensure you're physically prepared to play the sport you love.
“Many patients only see a doctor when something is wrong. But these athletes are not waiting to get hurt,” he said. “They are proactive and are anticipating the natural decline of the body and they're trying to push it.”
Dr. Kenneth-Nwosa says it’s never too late to start an exercise program. But he recommends talking to your doctor before making any lifestyle changes.
“Have a conversation with your doctor about your clinical history and the medications you are taking,” he said. “It's super important to see a doctor before something happens so that you can prevent an injury.”
He believes every athlete is unique and understanding a body’s ability is more important than volume and intensity.
“Once we have a formal evaluation of your strength, your range of motion, and your joints, we can then discuss how to best participate in any activity to the best of your abilities,” he said.
Whether they are high-profile athletes or weekend warriors, Dr. Kenneth-Nwosa knows firsthand how to push athletes – of all ages – to reach their full potential.
“In the world of sports medicine, there are innovative approaches to maintain and supersede your current activity level,” he said. “Being proactive with your health while incorporating nutrition, exercise, and some orthobiologics allow you to stay active longer which means more time doing the things you love."