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Dealing with Injury as an Older Athlete

Updated: May 14

injured athlete
injured female athlete in 40s

I’m an athlete in my late 40s who loves dancing and movement in general, and occasionally competes in Spartan races. Despite feeling strong and agile, I’ve noticed how it takes me longer to recover from tough workouts and how I’ve become more susceptible to injury.

Recently, an old knee injury decided to come visiting again, and I found myself limping while walking and had no choice at some point but to skip multiple dance classes. I pondered over the possible movements that could have caused it, but my orthopedist mostly attributed it to wear and tear. It was a tough pill to swallow—realizing I had pushed my body a little too far.

These days, even if my knee doesn’t hamper me from doing most of the things I love to do, the following steps have been very helpful on the road to recovery:

1.      Engage in Gentle Movement: Following my injury, my regular morning yoga sessions became a way for me to tune in to my body's signals. Through yoga, I could identify which positions caused pain and which did not, providing clues to my recovery progress. This gentle form of exercise helped me understand what needed healing without further straining my body.

2.      Consult your Doctor: For some reason, Filipinos in general hesitate to seek medical advice. Baka daw may mahanap pang ibang problema. But you can’t solve a problem if you don’t understand it, and this is why we need to overcome that fear. It’s also important to find a doctor who understands your passion for sports and is committed to helping you maintain your activity level. My doctor, knowing how much dancing means to me, focuses on strategies to preserve my knee function rather than suggesting I stop dancing altogether.


3.      Get Support from your Coach: Communicating with my ballet teacher about my injury allowed us to modify my training regimen. When necessary, we would adjust by reducing the frequency of high-impact moves like big jumps to prevent aggravating my condition.


4.      Practice Patience and Body Awareness: Recovery, especially as an older athlete, cannot be rushed. It's arguably one of the most challenging aspects of dealing with injuries. You need to accept that healing takes time and allow yourself to recover at your body's pace. At the same time, body awareness - being attuned to physical cues and understanding the limits and capabilities of one’s body – is important so you know when to hold back or when it’s ok to push yourself and keep going.


5.      Optimize Your Diet for Healing: Nutrition plays a significant role in recovery. Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods and ensuring a diet rich in proteins can significantly impact healing. Avoiding processed foods, which can exacerbate inflammation, and focusing on wholesome, nutrient-dense foods support the body's repair processes.


Finally, it's important to set achievable recovery goals that motivate and encourage progress. Celebrating small achievements along the way can provide a psychological boost and help you maintain a positive outlook. Listen to your body, seek appropriate support, and adjust your expectations and training as necessary. You’ll get there!






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