12.AUG.2016 3 MIN READ | 3 MIN READ

When you are past the age of 40, your body tends to react differently to exercise.

With age come lost muscle strength and mass, as well as declining performances of the heart and lungs. This affects stamina and endurance.

“As we grow older, our bodies undergo certain physical changes which may affect our athletic ability,” says Dr Toh Choon Lai, an orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospitals, Singapore.

Are you in your 40s and would like to start playing more sports in order to maximise the health benefits exercise brings? With increased age comes a greater risk of injuries, especially for those without a regular workout regime. We dive into 4 common sports and their impact on our bodies after 40.


Common injuries are often caused by excessive running. Such injuries can include back pain, calf strain, shin splints, knee injuries, and hip bursitis. Hip bursitis is where the bursa, a small tissue at your hip, is inflamed, causing pain and tenderness in the area. This hip pain can become worse with prolonged walking or stairs climbing. In serious cases, surgical removal of the bursa is required.

“Runners should use shoes with good cushioning and should change shoes every 500 – 700km,” recommends Dr Toh, who adds that elderly runners are also more susceptible to fall-related injuries.


Swimming is often considered a gentler sport, but it is not injury-free. Shoulder injuries such as rotator cuff tendonitis or rotator cuff tear can occur, especially when there is insufficient warm up before a swim, or when there is poor swimming posture.

The rotator cuff is network of muscles and tendons that allow the arm to rotate. Rotator cuff tendonitis is where the rotator cuff tendon is inflamed, causing pain in the shoulder which worsens when the arm is raised overhead. Rotator cuff injury can be treated through physiotherapy and medication, but in serious cases, a keyhole (which means smaller cuts) procedure can be performed to reattach the torn tendon to the bone.


Some of the common soccer injuries include ankle sprains, knee ligament injuries, and hamstring strains. Among older soccer players, degeneration of knee and ankle may also be a problem, which can result in osteoarthritis in the knee and the ankle. Serious knee arthritis might require a surgical procedure to replace the diseased knee joint with an artificial joint.

One of the problems for contact sports (eg. soccer) athletes is to be too accustomed to injuries and therefore self-prescribes their own remedies. However, it is important to consult a specialist for a thorough diagnosis to ensure that there are no long term injuries sustained from repeated strain during high-impact sports.


Golf is becoming increasingly popular. Common overuse injuries in golfers include shoulder problems, neck pain, lower back pain, tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow. Wrist pain is also common in older golfers, because of the rapid twisting of the wrist during the golf swing.

Aging and recovery

Studies have shown that at age 45, the overall recovery rate is about 15% slower than a 30 year old person with similar injuries. This recovery rate declines further with age. While good nutrition and a balanced diet is beneficial, it is important that you moderate your physical activity, and build up to your desired optimum workout intensity instead of overexerting yourself. In addition, your body repairs less rapidly as you age, and you may be more susceptible to sports-related injuries and problem. It is important to consult a specialist if you suspect that you have a sports-afflicted injury or if you would like to get a check-up on your bone health. An orthopaedic specialist and physiotherapist can also help to tailor a fitness programme that is suitable for your physical condition and will reduce the risk of injury.


Article contributed by Dr Toh Choon Lai, orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital


Age-Related Responses to Injury. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.encyclopedia.com/sports/sports-fitness-recreation-and-leisure-magazines/age-related-responses-injury

Toh Choon Lai
Orthopaedic Surgeon
Mount Elizabeth Hospital

Dr Toh came to Singapore in 1978 to study at the National Junior College after being awarded the Singapore Government Public Service Commission ASEAN Scholarship. After his Junior College, he was awarded the Singapore Government Public Service Commission Merit Scholarship to study Medicine at the National University of Singapore. He graduated with the degrees of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in 1985. He went on to obtain both the Masters of Medicine (Surgery) and Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.