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How Can Older Athletes Stay Active?

Summit orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician Brian Walters, M.D., discusses some tips for older athletes who want to keep playing the sport they love.

Whether it’s football, hockey, swimming, racquetball, golf, soccer, or any of a hundred other sports, being an athlete takes time and dedication. For many people, their sport becomes part of their identity. Being active is part of what makes them who they are. But as the years go on, playing the sport they love can get more difficult for many people. How can older athletes stay active in their chosen sport?

“I work with many patients for whom participating in their chosen sport is a crucial part of their lives. It’s how they stay healthy. It helps them deal with stress and maintain good mental health, and it’s part of their social lives as well,” said Summit orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist Brian Walters, M.D. “But when an athletic patient gets a bit older — maybe they’re in their 60s — they begin to run into challenges with maintaining their current level of athletic activity,”

Tips to help older athletes stay active

  • Consider your goals

The first and most important thing, Dr. Walters said, is to set realistic expectations and goals. “Sometimes it’s important to sit down and have a frank conversation with patients who are active and older and have injuries,” Dr. Walters said. It may be time to modify the intensity or level of competitiveness, while still enjoying and participating in the sport. “Many of these individuals have continued to do things athletically that most of the population might have stopped doing 20 years ago,” he said.

  • Respect your limits

Patients who have been healthy and active their whole lives may not want to slow down. That’s fine, said Dr. Walters. It’s just a matter of being smart about how you engage in athletic activity and understanding how your body will respond at this age. Armed with that information, you can choose when and how much you push yourself.

“If you use proper form and set realistic training expectations, you can be active a lot longer. That’s only if you don’t push your body beyond the limits,” Dr. Walters said. “Sometimes, it takes a mental shift to realize that doing your chosen sport at 70 percent instead of 100 percent means that you can do it for a lot longer.”

More ideas for older athletes

  • Try innovative treatments

Many older athletes don’t want to have major surgery that will keep them out of the game for a significant period of time. Dr. Walters uses biologic therapies in his practice. “In the shoulder, I use biologic treatment to increase the chance of good success and recovery, especially in the setting of aging tissue,” he said. Biologics are designed to increase the healing environment in the joint, to speed recovery. It can be part of a surgical procedure or can be competed in the office.

  • Think through options

When it comes to staying active as an older athlete, it’s key to evaluate all of your options. “It’s so important to give patients choices, instead of telling them that there is only one treatment that will work best,” Dr. Walters said. By educating patients, and by laying out the top several options, older athletes can make the best decision for their goals and lifestyle.

Board of Regents Meeting Summary

May 6, 2022

 

The Concordia University, St. Paul Board of Regents held its quarterly meeting on May 6. Meeting highlights included:

 

  • Quarterly reports of the President and Executive Leadership Team
  • An update on progress toward Strategic Plan 2024
  • A board in-service session with Seth O’Dell, including a presentation and conversation, on the Kanahoma Project. The presentation focused on charting the next phases of enrollment growth, program development, and operational enhancement for CSP as we work to achieve an enrollment of 10,000.
  • A report from the Board Chair on various board activities including the status of the LCMS Convention 7-03 Task Force.
  • Lunch with several members of the undergraduate science faculty and students who presented poster sessions on their research projects.
  • An update on CSP’s successful fundraising efforts
  • Reports from the Board’s Executive, Academic, Advancement, and Finance committees
  • Approved, via consent agenda, the following actions:
    • The proposed FY23 budget of $88,604,000, with a projected surplus of $1,467,000 (1.88%)
    • An endowment investment and spending policy
    • Faculty actions
      • Advancement in rank to associate professor for:

Dr. Jerrod Brown

Dr. Kimberly Craig

Rev. Dr. Michael Dorner

Dr. Matthew Jensen

Rev. Dr. Mark Koschmann

  • Advancement in rank to full professor for:
    Dr. Sue Starks
  • Advancement to Emeritus status:
    Dr. Phyllis Burger (effective June 30, 2022)
    Dr. Frederic (Ric) Dressen (effective December 31, 2022)
  • The Service of Sending, Honorary Awards Dinner, and Commencement ceremonies

What Is a Cartilage Injury, and What Can I Do About It?

Summit sports medicine surgeon Brian Walters, M.D., discusses cartilage injury, its causes, and treatment options.

Broken bones, torn ligaments, muscle tears, and joint sprains — orthopedic problems can come in many forms. One you may not have heard of is cartilage injury.

What is cartilage injury?

First, let’s make clear what it is not. “Cartilage injury is different from osteoarthritis,” said Summit sports medicine surgeon Brian Walters, M.D. “Arthritis is damaged cartilage, but it’s diffuse and affects a large portion of, if not the entire, joint. Cartilage injury, in contrast, is most often confined to a very small, focused area of the joint.”

Whereas arthritis is a generalized disease that progresses over time and can affect many joints, a focal cartilage injury has a specific location, cause, and treatment. Often, the injury to the cartilage is the result of a traumatic injury, like an impact from a blow to the joint, a fall, or landing improperly. You can also get cartilage injury because of your anatomy. “Some people have anatomy that predisposes their joints to cartilage injury,” Dr. Walters said.

The symptoms of a cartilage injury are typically pain, swelling, and sometimes a “catching” sensation in the joint. Usually, the pain is focused in the area of the joint where the injury to the cartilage is.

“Despite being confined to a small area of the joint, cartilage injuries are often in a critical area from a functional standpoint,” Dr. Walters said. “And because they are confined to a small area, they can often be treated.”

The most common joint for cartilage injury is the knee. “Because of the mechanical forces that the knee is subjected to during normal activity, a focal defect in the cartilage is very poorly tolerated. Localized cartilage injury in the knee tends to come with a significant loss of function,” Dr. Walters said.

To diagnose cartilage injury, a sports medicine specialist will talk with you about your symptoms. Your provider will also conduct an examination and confirm the findings with an MRI scan.

How is cartilage injury treated?

The good news is, there are many treatment options for cartilage injuries. Traditional treatments include physical therapy, activity modification, and minimally invasive surgery to remove the unstable or unhealthy portion of cartilage.

But today, we have innovative new treatment options that were not available before. “We can now restore and regenerate cartilage, allowing us to achieve far superior outcomes when it comes to return to sports or pain-free functional activity levels,” Dr. Walters said. “Innovations that we couldn’t dream of having 10 years ago have now significantly changed the face of how we treat and manage cartilage injury.”

Biologics are an important new area of treatment for cartilage injury. “Biologics” is an umbrella term that covers a group of treatments that are performed with naturally derived products, either from patients’ own bodies or from a donor, that can be used to achieve cartilage restoration.

For example, platelet-rich plasma or stem cell injections help to promote healing. Dr. Walters performs these procedures in the office or during surgery.

Another option is to harvest, or “borrow,” a patient’s own cartilage, which can then be minimally manipulated and subsequently applied to the area of cartilage damage. For larger areas of damage, cartilage can be transplanted from a donor into a patient’s joint.

“We can even separate out a patient’s individual cartilage cells, grow them in the lab, and then surgically implant them back into the knee,” Dr. Walters said. “These new treatment options have greatly improved outcomes for people with cartilage injuries.”

Treat the cause, not just the result

Dr. Walters notes that in addition to recognizing and treating cartilage damage, it’s crucial for patients to work with their doctors to identify and treat the underlying cause of the cartilage injury. “Not addressing the underlying cause is the number one reason for recurring damage or failed treatment,” he said. By correcting an underlying anatomic or mechanical problem, patients can maximize their recovery and get the best long-term outcome.

 

How Do You Recognize Hand and Wrist Tendinitis?

Summit hand and upper extremity surgeon J.P. Delaney, M.D., discusses how you can recognize hand and wrist tendinitis.

Pain and stiffness in the hand and wrist can make so many everyday activities, from washing dishes to getting dressed to opening the mail difficult. Knowing what is causing these symptoms is a key first step in feeling better. So how can you recognize hand and wrist tendinitis?

Tendinitis happens when a tendon — in this case, one of the many tendons in the hands or wrists — gets irritated and inflamed. Tendons go through narrow spaces, and if a tendon gets inflamed in that narrow space, it can develop irritation as it moves.

How do you recognize hand and wrist tendinitis?

The good news is, it can be a short-term problem. “Tendinitis is an acute problem. Something causes the irritation, and if you can treat it, you can reverse it and be pain-free for a lifetime,” said Summit hand and upper extremity surgeon J.P. Delaney, M.D.

Tendinitis symptoms often mimic those of another common hand and wrist problem: arthritis.  But there is a key difference, according to Dr. Delaney. “Arthritis is a chronic problem. There is no way to reverse arthritis once someone has it. Treatment focuses on figuring out how to manage arthritis symptoms prior to doing something surgical,” he said.

There are many tendons in the hand, all of which can have tendinitis. Tendinitis also can happen at the wrist. One of the most common forms of tendinitis is De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which affects the two tendons that connect to the thumb. “The most common symptom is pain at the wrist, especially when you are grabbing things or reaching out to lift things up. For example, if you grab a gallon of milk out of the refrigerator and feel pain at the wrist,” that’s a classic sign of De Quervain’s,” Dr. Delaney said.

How do you treat hand and wrist tendinitis?

Treatment is typically nonsurgical and conservative. Options include a wrist brace, with or without a steroid injection. “The steroid injection goes right inside the tunnel that the tendon is trying to move through, to reduce inflammation,” Dr. Delaney said. Other treatments include rest and oral anti-inflammatory medications.

If your tendinitis pain keeps coming back, and you’ve had multiple rounds of injections without long-term relief, a surgical release may be the right way to go. Talk with your Summit hand and upper extremity surgeon about your options.

Summit Orthopedics provides personalized hand and wrist expertise

The function of our hands connects through our wrists and arms to our shoulders; a problem anywhere along our arm may have a significant impact on hand function and quality of life. If you experience an injury or uncomfortable symptoms, our fellowship-trained hand and wrist surgeons are here to help. Summit physicians receive the highest levels of training and exclusively provide individualized care for conditions of the hand, wrist, and elbow.

Start your journey to better function and less pain. Find your hand expert, schedule an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a consultation.