As a doctor at Baltimore's Union Memorial Hospital Sports Medicine Clinic, Bill Howard not only has seen and treated a thousand injuries, he's also had most of them himself.
"The most common maladies we see at the clinic are overuse injuries - to the back, to the knee, to the shoulder," says Howard, who didn't call it quits as a rugby player until he was 55, two decades after most participants hang 'em up.
"After overuse problems come leg injuries, mechanical stuff like knees, shinsplints, biomechanical problems in the feet," he continued. "Then it's acute injuries - cartilage damage, ACLs [anterior cruciate ligaments], shoulder separations and broken bones."
So what's a body to do, particularly a body that is in no hurry to give up the activity he or she so enjoys for a life in front of a television?
"The biggest problem with weekend athletes or anybody who remains active in sports or anything else comes in the mind-set," says Howard. "The mind-set of athletes, no matter what level, is that they can go on forever. They're not smart enough to know when to slow down or stop.
"It's a mistake common in youth; namely, that 'I can go on forever,' and, at the other end of the spectrum is the mind-set of age, where you keep thinking you can do what you always did. You can't realize it and make the necessary adjustment."
It took awhile, but the doctor finally got around to following his own advice: "I was playing in a rugby match, going against a guy I had been playing against for years and having good success against. This time, he had my lunch. He said something about my playing well afterward, but both he and I knew that wasn't true. That's the last time I played." It was nine years ago."
These days, for enjoyment and exercise, Howard bikes every chance he gets. "And spending so much time at the hospital," Howard says, "I have become fast friends with the stairs. You get a good workout going from the ground floor to the ninth floor, believe me. It helps the wind, maintains leg strength and keeps the weight off."
Besides, Howard has yet to run into some youthful behemoth bent on driving him into the turf while he's bounding up a staircase.
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Pub Date: 5/24/98