The elderly amateur athletes and players who take up sports and athletics for recreation and fitness often encounter moderate degree of musculosketetal injuries, and at times more serious injuries. The ageing athlete’s reaction time and ability to focus attention on a task during a stressful situation becomes diminished. Hence acute injuries tend to occur in ageing athletes participating in sports activities that demand high coordination, reaction time and balance. However the overall health benefits of sports and athletics in elderly mitigates the potential risks. The risk of myocardial infarction associated with exercise is very remote. A proper cardiac, respiratory and musculoskeletal examination, before commencement of an exercise program is highly recommended. The risk of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance also needs to be addressed.
The best treatment in this scenario is prevention. Good agility, technical skills, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal fitness are important in injury prevention among the elderly. Appropriate training programmes, the use of safe and familiar equipment, careful warming up and cooling down, multiphasic training including the training of neurophysiological functions like balance, coordination, reaction time and muscle strength are essential aspects of injury prevention. Balance re-training has been used successfully to maintain proper balance, coordination and postural stability. It is a graded technique of introducing an unstable surface and degree of unpredictability. The ageing athlete progresses through the three stages of re-training – static, functional and dynamic in a graded and supervised program. Most of the balance re-training program can be incorporated into the daily fitness regimen under the supervision of a sports physiotherapist trained in the technique.