Does physical skill REALLY diminish with age?

Here’s the evidence:

Andre Agassi - Cincy '04 champ at 34

Michael Schumacher - Formula One champ (for 7th time - almost) at 36

Ronnie (something or other) - World Bodybuilding Champ 2002 at 32 (my facts may not be perfect on this one but a guy called Ronnie (something or other) was world bodybuilding champ at the age of 32.

Seems to be the way these days, champions in sports are getting older and older.

And I mean, I don’t see why not. I mean surely if you can stay as fit as you were in your mid-20’s, you’ve got a hell of a lot more experience ten years on.

But can you retain the physical skill that you had in your younger age? Or even (shock, horror, fantasy?) get better?

Does physical skill necessarily diminish with age? With all these sports stars staying fitter and healthier in thier “twilight” years do you reckon we’ll ever get super-athletes who are over 50?

I mean, what about Carl Lewis (no really, what about Carl Lewis? I don’t remember the last title he won or how old he was)?

Depends on the sport, I’d think. Some marathon and ultra-marathon runners are quite long in the tooth. Sports that put more punishment on the body tend to attract younger (cough more foolish cough) athletes…

It certainly does depend on the sport.

I recall reading something recently that your typical Tae Kwon Do competitor is past their peak by 28, but according to Lou Thesz, the prime of a wrestler’s career is his mid-30s. There are quite a few “old guys” in the UFC that managed to hang on until their 40s or so (Randy Couture and Don Fry come to mind as do the Gracies).

Skateboarders on the other hand seem to be done by their mid-20s (although I caught the end of the X Games today and apparently there’s a dude in his late 30s, but he might just be an example of hard living).

But one thing that you need to remember is that even in the past 10 years or so, the advances in sports medicine (and all that encompasses: nutrition, training science, treatment, therapy) allows for people to “last longer” in their bodies than previous generations. I think this is a significant factor.

I love Andre to death and I was thrilled that he won. You know why? Because it was his first title in (as Cliff Drysdale said during the match) almost a year and a half. And Andre gets a lot of extra attention because he is extremely unusual on tour. The announcers today also noted that he is just about the oldest man in every tournament he enters and that he takes exceptional care of himself.

Somewhat, yes. Actually, what’s going on is that there have been some well-publicized exceptions due to the advances we’ve made in the science of sports, like nutrition and training.

I think you’ve answered your own question. There are no 40-year-olds on the ATP or WTA tour, much less 50. Agassi, it saddens me to say, will probably stop in a year or two. The world #1 and #2 players are 22 and 21, respectively. Nolan Ryan shocked the world by pitching into his mid-40s a decade ago. Julio Franco is an effective hitter at the same age. The best player today, most would agree, just turned 29. Michael Jordan quit at 40, and still played well but his skills had noticeably declined. The best player in the NBA is 25. There have been some very noteable exceptions, and there will probably more of them. But they ARE exceptions. Will somebody play to 50? Maybe. Does skill decline with age, even if not all people decline the same amount or at the same rate? Yes.

It really matters in some sports. Annia Hatch (26 years old) is the oldest female gymnast to compete on the women’s US Olympic Team since 1964.

Here’s the AP story about Agassi’s win.

He’s the oldest man to win a tournament on tour in 15 years. Here’s hoping he has at least a few more in him. I definitely feel much better about that today than I did a few days ago.

Let us not forget George Foreman. It’s astonishing that someone as old as he was would even step into a sparring ring with a pro. Lots of middle-aged folks were walking with a little extra spring in their step in weeks to follow, even if he wasn’t at his personal best when he reclaimed the boxing title at, what was it, 45?

Hard to get a whole hell of a lot more wear and tear on the body than in boxing.

Yes,your physical skill for most sports does diminish with age. Agassi won a tournament but the top players are all quite a bit younger. The brains are better but the legs go out and you lose strength.

I would think the proof that physical skills diminish with age lies in the fact that we consider Andre Agassi to be an old champion at 34. He’s 34, for God’s sake. He’s YOUNG.

I don’t know other sports as well, but the peak age for baseball players has not changed in 130 years; it’s 27 years old. 27-year-old players win more awards, lead in more positive statistical categories, and generally play better than players of any other age. All groups of players decline after 27 and decline precipitously after 32, the slope of decline being inversely related to the player’s value. Most players don’t make it past 30-32. You notice the guys who are exceptions to the rule like Randy Johnson; you don’t notice the 250 other guys born the same year as Johnson who made the major leagues and have been out of baseball since 1996.

If skill DIDN’T decline with age, where are the star athletes in their 50s?

Physical skills unquestionably decline with age. The age at which the falloff starts in any particular sport depends upon the individual. Cy Young started pitching in the big leagues at age 23 in 1890. His last effective year was at age 42 in 1909 when his record was 19-15. He did pitch for two more years but didn’t appear in many games and apparently was not much of a factor in his team’s season. However it isn’t common for a pitcher to appear in 34 games, most of them complete games, and win the majority of them at age 42 and Young was a physical standout.

He was quoted in an interview late in life as saying that he quit because he got so overweight that he could no longer field his position and as he said, “The bastards bunted me out of baseball.”


Iron Man Mike Tyson.
Muhammat Ali
etc. etc.
Lance Armstrong 6X Tour de France, can he make it the 7th time?
Wait and see.

Time and tide wate for no man. Age, wear, and tear take their toll.
What you can do today, you man not be able to do tomorrow.

This is another one of those sort of dumb questions to which a little thought would produce the obvious answer. But then again some folks just dont have IT!