Team sports keeping older people young
For Jim DeVore, it was high school all over again.
There he was, fast footing around the court with his buddies, throwing everything into the game and giving it all for the team.
It ultimately ended in defeat. But for DeVore, a 62-year-old Santa Rosa family physician, that tournament left him with an exhilaration he had not felt in more than 40 years.
"I was disappointed in my performance but at that point, nobody cared," he recalled of that moment of defeat during the first-ever Wine Country Senior Games in June. "Everyone played hard. The satisfaction was playing hard, being totally exhausted when it was over, giving everything and when it's over, you're just smoked."
For most adults, the experience of playing a team sport ends in high school or college. And yet every player on the team Rabbit Stew — named for a mysterious term often repeated by DeVore's old high school coach — was over 60.
"One of my kids said, &‘What are you doing?' As if an old guy shouldn't play basketball. The thing is, I'm playing for the same reason high school kids play — for the excitement, camaraderie and the competition. None of that changes. That's the amazing thing."
There was a time when seniors were warned to take it easy and, at all costs, avoid injury. Keep it safe and light like walking or swimming. But as with so many cultural and social practices, Baby Boomers are forging a new norm for exercising. And that may include dialing back to the early life excitement of team sports.
"If you look at people who continue to participate in sports or physical activities for many, many years, they're more likely to do it if they're doing it with a group of people," said Dr. Kirk Pappas, a sports medicine specialist for Kaiser Santa Rosa Medical Center.
Pappas said it's important to consult your physician about any exercise plan and to proceed with common sense.
"If you're 85, basketball may not be your best choice," he said.
But, he stressed, the benefits of hard, intense, competitive exercise can outweigh the risks of minor injuries, particularly if the alternative is to not exercise<NO1> at all<NO>.
Being sedentary is a far greater health liability.<NO>
"In team sports, we know 150 minutes of aerobic exercise is more powerful than any medicine we can give you," Pappas said. <NO1>Pappas' hero <NO><NO1>is astronaut John Glenn, who returned to space in his <NO><NO1>80s. <NO>"It reduces the risk of complications from every disease known to mankind.
"As we age, it's expected to have aches and pains and some musculoskeletal owies. That's part of natural aging. But the alternative is not being alive."
DeVore is a runner and a thriathlete, so he already was in top shape when he returned to competitive basketball. But he found out that the moves and motor skills required for dribbling and shooting hoops are different. He wound up pulling his hamstring, almost immediately.
He and his teammates — brother John DeVore, 63; his old high school teammate Lad Allen, 61; Mel Peterson, 63, who played for Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State back in the '70s; and Kent Beasley, 61, of Santa Rosa, who also played in high school — trained for three months before the tournament.