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Preventing and Treating Injuries Among the 'Weekend Warriors'


From the Summer 2008 issue of StayHealthy Magazine

When Tauhir Jones heard an uncharacteristic ‘pop’ and felt an unfamiliar pain in his right leg while playing a game of pick-up basketball on one of the first nice days in May, he knew something serious had happened.  “I felt like I had been kicked in the back of the ankle.  When I looked, I say an indentation and knew I had done something to my Achilles tendon,” says Mr. Jones, of Miller. That ‘something’ was a complete rupture of the Achilles tendon, the strong fibrous chord that connects the muscles in the back of the lower leg to the heel bone. 

Mr. Jones said he was lucky.

He was referred to Orthopedic Surgeon Paul J. Gruszka, MD, who was able to surgically repair the tendon.

“It’s hard to believe that I went out to shoot a little basketball and now I’m going to be incapacitated for months,” he says.  “But, I also know now I did everything wrong.  I didn’t warm up.  I hadn’t been active and at age, 34, I don’t feel like I’m old, but my body just isn’t what it was when I was 19.”

Dr. Gruszka says Mr. Jones is one of the “Weekend Warriors,” a group of 35-50 year olds – mostly men – who are not as active as they once were but are quick to join in for a vigorous game of basketball or softball without any conditioning or stretching. 

“We see these kinds of injuries very frequently,” Dr. Gruszka says.  “I saw an identical case of Achilles rupture – also from basketball – within two weeks after I repaired Mr. Jones’ Achilles tendon.  We also see a lot of ankle fractures in guys who slide into a base and their cleat catches in the dirt.  These are guys who probably haven’t slid into a base for 20 years.”

In addition to the Achilles injuries, Orthopedic Surgeon Anthony Levenda, MD, says following weekend sporting events, he sees any number of broken and sprained ankles, torn ligaments and cartilages of the knee as well as rotator cuff injuries, shoulder dislocations and collar bone fractures – primarily among 35-50 year-old men.

“This is a group that forgets how important it is to warm-up before strenuous exercise and to stretch,” Dr. Levenda says.  “Basketball involves a lot of pounding of the leg joints.  In addition, both basketball and softball involve a lot of stopping and starting as well as pivoting and twisting, which can be very hard on the ligaments and tendons in the legs and feet.”

Dr. Gruszka and Dr. Levenda both say that taking a few simple precautions to prevent injuries before heading out to the basketball court or baseball diamond can save months in recovery time and rehabilitation following a debilitating injury.

“These injuries tend to have long drawn out recoveries, sometimes up to a year,” Dr. Gruszka says.  “Adults need to remember that old adage, ‘Walk before you run,’ applies to them, too.”

As a sales director who spends a great deal of time on the road, Mr. Jones says he realizes going forward he is going to need to plan for physical activity. 

“I was very active in college but I never thought I was as flexible as I needed o be,” he says.  “I wasn’t conditioned before but that is something I know I am going to need to change going forward.  Now that I am in my 30s, I can already tell that my recovery time is a lot longer than it was 10 years ago. The other thing I am going to do is to listen to my body.  If I would have listened when I felt the first twinge, I would have never had this injury.” 

Tips to avoid becoming injured:

  1. Learn to stretch fully before beginning any exercise
  2. Get your muscles and joints acclimated by warming up
  3. Begin at a slower pace and work your way up – gradually


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