NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 20, 2006

For America's baby boomers, a generation weaned on Jack LaLanne, shaped by Jane Fonda videos and sculpted in the modern-day gym, too much of a good thing has consequences, says the New York Times.

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.

  • Led by baby boomers, loosely defined as the 78 million Americans born from 1946 to 1964, sports injuries have become the number two reason for visits to a doctor's office nationwide, behind the common cold, according to a 2003 survey by National Ambulatory Medical Care.
  • A Bureau of Labor Statistics study said infirmities associated with the athletic activities of middle-aged adults were the source of 488 million days of restricted work in 2002.
  • When the Consumer Product Safety Commission examined emergency-room visits in 1998, it discovered that sports-related injuries to baby boomers had risen by 33 percent since 1991 and amounted to $18.7 billion in medical costs.

"Boomers are the first generation that grew up exercising, and the first that expects, indeed demands, that they be able to exercise into their 70s," says Dr. Nicholas A. DiNubile, a Philadelphia-area orthopedic surgeon.

"But evolution doesn't work that quick. Physically, you can't necessarily do at 50 what you did at 25. We've worn out the warranty on some body parts. That's why so many boomers are breaking down. It ought to be called Generation Ouch."

Source: Bill Pennington, "Baby Boomers Stay Active, and So Do Their Doctors," New York Times, April 16, 2006.

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