Orthopaedic Surgeon, specializing in sports medicine, currently practicing at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Director, Performance and Research Initiative for Masters Athletes (PRIMA), University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Appeared on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and other shows
Medical Degree, Pritzker School of Medicine, University Of Chicago
Vonda Wright: 'Fitness After 40'
By Mimi Elliott
The 700 Club
Dr. Vonda Wright, now 42, has been working out for many years.
“I grew up with a father who ran marathons,” Dr. Wright said. Her dad, Gene, now 69, continues to stay fit.
In high school, Dr. Wright ran track and took ballet. Then after college, she stopped working out for about 10 years.
“I decided to pick running back up when I was in med school,” Dr. Wright said. She asked herself, What am I working out for? Dr. Wright decided to cross-train with spinning and lifting and made a strategic workout plan.
As an orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Wright realized many people in the waiting room were 40+ years old. The only books on the market for athletes were specifically written for the pro athlete, young people or women. The most active growing population is the over 40 group (Dr. Wright refers to these as “masters”). She reminds mature athletes that our bodies are not the same after 40 as when we were in our 20s.
“It is important to exercise to stay fit; pills and diets won’t do it alone,” Dr. Wright said. Her goal is to get people off the couch or to help athletes step up to the next level of fitness without injury.
“Injury is the number one reason people stop working out,” she said. Dr. Wright said there are four key areas that are the most common areas of complaint from weekend warriors: leg/ankle tendonitis, knee pain, low back pain and shoulder pain. Masters have a tendency to do too much, too soon and too often.
“We can’t make up for 20 years of not exercising today,” Dr. Wright said.
WEEKEND WARRIOR PAIN
Many athletes mistake back pain for just that: back pain.
“The key to your back is your front,” Dr. Wright said.
The muscles of the lower back are actually smaller than the muscles of the abdomen and sides. The large rectus muscles in the front and the oblique muscles on the sides (also known as the “core”) stabilize your back and pelvis and, if strong, act to prevent pain. The most important way to prevent low back pain and the misery it causes is to concentrate on your core muscles. This belt of muscles wraps around your midsection. To locate this group, place your hands just above your hips and tighten the muscles under your palms. If they are not tight, it is just because they have not been engaged in a long time.
“Your goal is to keep these muscles working throughout the day even when you are not exercising,” Dr. Wright said.
When patients come in with knee pain, Dr. Wright said she always looks at the quadracep muscles. Quads are the four large muscles in the front of the leg. They control how much pressure your knees and kneecaps experience with every step.
“Strong quads can prevent many knee conditions that athletes and active agers experience,” she said. Keeping quads strong is key to minimizing knee injuries.
ABOUT DR. WRIGHT
Dr. Wright currently practices at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and specializes in sports medicine. As the Director of PRIMA, she cares for patients with a variety of musculoskeletal injuries while conducting research focused on athletes over 40. Since 2003, Dr. Wright has been looking at health research data related to Senior Olympians, with the hypothesis that athletes over the age of 40 who maintain high levels of functional capacity and quality of life throughout their life spans may be the best model of healthy aging. Dr. Wright will demonstrate core and hip exercises as a guest on The 700 Club.
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