Bleacher Butt Syndrome is real.
Seriously. The Free Dictionary by Farlex, thefreedictionary.com, has an entry for it. And, if you want the technical breakdown, Bleacher Butt Syndrome is “a condition caused by prolonged sitting on the hard wood or metal seats of bleachers for sporting events, which compress the gluteal muscles between the pelvic bones and the flat wooden surface, resulting in pain and paresthesias. It is more common in older adults and worse in cold weather.”
I’m aware that this probably falls into the category of TMI, but I was impressed because I was unaware that I even had gluteal muscles, let alone where they were located.
I’m pointing it out because I want you to understand that I’m not just being snarky here. Bleacher Butt Syndrome is real. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center even includes an article on its website, “How to prevent bleacher butt.”
The article is a serious one, not tongue-in-cheek, but it starts out by asserting the obvious: “Bleacher seats are not designed for comfort or support.”
Truer words may have never been spoken. Whether they’re metal, wooden, or those fancy plastic ones with numbers affixed to each seat, bleachers are designed to give you somewhere to park your keister after paying to enter an event. You have to carry your own personal device that’s designed for comfort or support. If you’re too poor to buy your own donut pillow or too stubborn to admit that you’re now falling into the “older adult” category that is a risk factor for Bleacher Butt Syndrome, UPMC offers tips for how to overcome those uncomfortable and unsupportive bleachers.
First and foremost, UPMC says, you should practice good posture. This means keeping your ear, shoulder and hip in line with an imaginary string hanging from the ceiling. Don’t slouch, the medical center says, because that actually increases the load on your lumbar spine rather than lessening it. Sitting up straight “may feel awkward at first,” the article admits, “but does reduce the stress through the back.”
But because good posture alone doesn’t offer total prevention against Bleacher Butt Syndrome, UPMC suggests that you exercise regularly to strengthen the muscles in your gluteus maximus.
Presumably, this was typed with a straight face. The bottom line, UPMC says, is that “we do not utilize the muscles (read: our gluteal muscles . . . a.k.a., our butt) required to maintain correct posture and so our muscles may fatigue well before the event on the field ends.”
By exercising, UPMC goes on to say, you can strengthen your muscles and enjoy longer sits on hard bleachers. The medical center recommends that you focus on planks, side props and bridges.
It’s been too long since I exercised regularly to know what planks, side props and bridges are, and I’d like for someone at UPMC to explain to me how I could have explained myself at Sunbright High School, Scott High School or Huntsville Middle School last week if I’d been caught doing any of those butt-strengthening exercises in the bleachers.
To be fair, I’m pretty sure the UPMC authors are suggesting that “regular exercise” be conducted before attending sporting events, not during. But, in the defense of all of us bleacher bums who are suffering from gluteal-muscle-fatigue after sitting through about a gazillion ballgames to watch our children play, it’s probably also fair to say that no one googles “Bleacher butt prevention” until after symptoms have begun.
Thankfully, UPMC offers suggestions for that, too. “Despite positive changes in posture and strength,” the medical center says, “you may still find some degree of stiffness and pain with long bouts of sitting. It is ideal to incorporate changes in position periodically to give your muscles and joints a break. Try to stand up and take a lap every so often to prevent fatigue and allow your body to reset.”
Let’s stop right there for a second. Can you imagine the looks on the faces of game administrators, coaches and referees if us “older adults” start standing up, one by one, and walking our weary butts around the court to “take a lap”?
It’s probably safe to say that none of these suggestions are going to work. But, thankfully, I continued until the end of the article, where UPMC offered the simplest and most logical support of all: Buy yourself an ergonomic gel cushion to carry to the games.
I said it was the “simplest” and “most logical.” I didn’t say it was necessarily the most ideal. No one under the age of 70 should feel comfortable carrying an ergonomic gel cushion anywhere — not if they want to remain self-respecting in their middle age. Even though the Free Dictionary by Farlex points out that we should probably consider ourselves “old” if we’re suffering from Bleacher Butt Syndrome, I’m not breaking down and buying an ergonomic gel cushion. I’ll take my chances.
But if you spot me high in the bleachers, lying prone on a yoga mat as I try to pull off a side prop exercise, please overlook me. I’m just another “older adult” suffering from Bleacher Butt Syndrome.