Baby Boomers Stay Active, and So Do Their Doctors

The New York Times—April 16, 2006

Encouraged by doctors to continue to exercise three to five times a week for their health, a legion of running, swimming and biking boomers are flouting the conventional limits of the middle-aged body's abilities, and filling the nation's operating rooms and orthopedists' offices in the process.

They need knee and hip replacements, surgery for cartilage and ligament damage, and treatment for tendinitis, arthritis, bursitis and stress fractures. The phenomenon even has a name in medical circles: boomeritis.

"The baby-boomer patient faced with a problem, even a sore knee, does not go silently into the good night," said Dr. Riley Williams, associate attending orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. "That patient's mind-set is that there must be something that can be done. And thanks to improved diagnostics and surgical advancements, often there is."

It was rare 15 years ago for doctors to perform complex reconstruction of the knee's anterior cruciate ligament in patients older than 50; now it is common. The same is true for surgical repairs to the shoulder's rotator cuff and operations to mend intricate ankle and elbow ailments. Elaborate knee and hip replacements have become routine. Williams said about half his sports-medicine practice is made up of baby boomers.

"If I have a 65-year-old without arthritis in the knee who needs ligament reconstruction, why should I assign that patient to a lifetime of wearing a knee brace instead?" Williams said. "He wants to get out of a cab without his knee buckling, and maybe wants to bike a little. It's absolutely reasonable to do that surgery."

View an Internet version of The New York Times article.

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