When Is It Time To Hang It Up? – The Aging Athlete


You’re not 20, not even 30. Your brain is saying you can still play like a champ, your heart is still into it, but guess what: your legs, your arms, your eyes, your entire body is not what it used to be.

Does this mean you give up, and quit the game you love so much and played all of your life. Is it time to hang it up? When is the right time?

Whether your sport is soccer, softball, basketball, or any other contact physical sport, hanging it up may cross your mind if you’re an aging athlete. For me, my passion is lacrosse. At almost 47, I still hobble out there every week, as do all of my teammates, to play a competitive game.

In the past few months, I have witnessed some major on-the-field injuries that required surgery. ACL tearbicep tear, meniscal tear, and wrist fracture. Not to mention all the sprains, strains, and bruises. Another teammate went through a hip replacement. I am still going through rehab of a meniscus I re-tore 2 months ago, yet I need to continue playing.

First, let’s understand what happens as we get older. All of our organ systems go through changes. Cardiac output decreases, as does maximal heart rate. Lung elasticity and total lung capacity decrease.

Major hormones, testosterone and growth hormone level decline, leading to decrease in muscle mass, increase in fat, decrease in bone mass, and fatigue. Nerve conduction slows, balance deteriorates, and reaction time slows down. Fast twitch muscle fibers (2a) which produce speed, quickness, strength, and power, decrease in number. Wear and tear of most major joints, and arthritis begin to develop. Hand and eye coordination declines, vision worsens. And yes, stress, both at work and home, plays a role in the changes our bodies exhibit.

Despite these facts of life, it is my strong belief to keep going.

There is no right or wrong answer of when to hang it up. The answer is very individual, and may need to be discussed with your doctor. However, my opinion, as a sports medicine and rehabilitation specialist, and a lacrosse player, is to keep going as long as possible.

Needless to say, it is important to keep your body in best shape possible. Keep a regular stretching and core strengthening routine, and include aerobic exercise.

– Michael Y. Mizhiritsky, MD

NY Bone and Joint Specialists is a top rated, private Orthopedic and Sports Medicine practice in New York City. The Orthopedic Surgery, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, and Pain Management specialists routinely perform surgical and non-surgical treatments for professional athletes from across the United States and various other countries. Leon E. Popovitz, MD, and Michael Y. Mizhiritsky, MD, along with their team of best-in-class orthopedic physicians, are known for their exemplary orthopedic surgical skill and best-rated physical medicine and rehabilitation program. With this, along with their top in-office physical therapy and long-term sports rehabilitation processes, NY Bone and Joint Specialists work toward better overall quality of life for each and every patient.

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