There you were. Twenty-two years old, in the best shape of your life, playing racquetball with a cute girl you were trying to impress. She was matching you volley for volley, serve for serve when suddenly your competitive streak took over. Winding up for the ultimate strike, you hear a sudden pop, feel excruciating pain in your shoulder and watch as the ball bounces lamely to the opposite wall. You recognize that you've injured your shoulder, but it doesn't hurt that bad and after moving it around you feel much better.
Now fast forward twenty years.
Closing in on your mid-forties, your job may be keeping you from the gym more than you'd like, but you can still hold your own. Yet every once in a while, that shoulder injury acts up and you find yourself more sore than normal the morning after a workout and unable to lift as much as you could before.
"I'll just hit the gym more," you think as you pop a few ibuprofens to get through your golf game.
Your Body Will Continue to Deteriorate
Like it or not, muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia, happens with age. From the time you are born until your 30's your muscles continue to grow larger and stronger. Yet sometime after you turn 30, you begin to lose muscle mass - as much as three to five percent per year in physically inactive people. While diet and exercise can slow this loss, this condition means old muscle or tendon injuries will only continue to deteriorate if not properly cared for. Plus, chances are you have been unknowingly compensating for that injury for years creating bad habits that harm your body in the long run.
Having said that, age is still just a number. Studies have shown that it is possible to not only repair but build muscle even into your 60's and 70's. You may not see the gains you once did, but it is never too late to rehab and repair an old injury.
Not Every Injury Requires Surgery
One of the biggest hindrances to finally remedying old injuries is the threat of surgery. Chances are, if you visit an orthopedic surgeon for a consultation on an old injury, they will recommend some form of surgical repair. While some injuries truly can only be repaired through surgical intervention, those that athletes choose to "deal with" over time are generally curable through alternative treatments. Chiropractic care, physiotherapy, strength training, and other interventions not only provide the body with the right set of circumstances to finally heal itself, they can ease the pain of caring for an injury without the use of harmful medications.
While it is not possible to turn back the hands of time, you don't have to accept that old sports injury as your new normal. Instead, let that competitive streak shine through and use that determination to be in some of the best shape of your life once more.