I'm interested in the way that athletic performance changes with age.
March 22, 2010 2:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in the way that athletic performance changes with age, and how this varies amongst different sports. Can anyone point me to some data sources on age-specific performance for any sports? What about age at retirement for pro/semi-pro athletes in different sports?

I am already aware of the World Masters Athletics organisation, and there're some interesting data there. Can you think of any equivalent organisations for other sports that I might be able to approach?
posted by jonesor to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Baseball Career Length in the Twentieth-Century: The Effects of Age, Performance, and Era (pdf file).

The average position player can expect to play just five years; over one in four position players will have only a single-year career, and at every point of a player’s career, the chance of exiting is at least 11%. Position players who start younger, perform better, and begin their career in more recent decades all have longer and more stable careers; nevertheless, baseball careers are not compressed versions of normal careers, but are substantially skewed toward early exit.
posted by three blind mice at 3:52 AM on March 22, 2010

You'd have to do your own analysis, and it's US only, but US Track and Field has records available in all age groups.
posted by OmieWise at 4:55 AM on March 22, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks OmieWise, that is exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for.
This kind of data for other sports would be great.
posted by jonesor at 4:58 AM on March 22, 2010

To add some analysis to the above, here [pdf] is a pretty well-researched article on the ability of runners "as a function of age, distance and sex".

(Runners again; I suppose that sport is the easiest to measure.)
posted by thijsk at 5:42 AM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You can find lots of data on indoor rowing records by age group on Concept 2's website. Indoor rowing is a pretty reliable indicator of cardiovascular fitness.

Lwt = lightweight, by the way.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:52 AM on March 22, 2010

Best answer: Baseball makes for an interesting study on this topic because different positions on the field demand different skills. Bill James wrote about aging patterns in one of the early abstracts. The gist of it is that athletes begin to lose speed early in their careers, but their skills improve with experience. Baseball players peak between the ages of 28 and 32. First basemen and corner outfielders have the longest careers because their value derives primarily from hitting skill and less from speed and quickness. Skilled hitters at other positions tend to move to one of these less demanding positions later in their careers. Second basemen have the shortest careers, with great second basemen often losing their skills in their mid 30s. Meanwhile, a first basemen who can hit remains productive into his early 40s.

Statistically, younger players have higher batting averages and more stolen bases. Older players have more home runs and walks.
posted by chrchr at 10:49 AM on March 22, 2010

Response by poster: I hadn't thought of baseball, so thanks chrchr. I did a bit of Googleing and came up with this site, that has a heap of data. Baseball performance (like all team sports I suppose) is not nearly as simple to quantify as something like running speed. The team aspect can hide individual-level performance, and the quality of the opposition would obviously influence things too. Nevertheless, it'll be interesting to poke around with the raw data and see what emerges!

Ideally I'd like more data on easy-to-quantify sports now...
posted by jonesor at 3:54 PM on March 22, 2010

Best answer: Joe Friel's The Cyclist's Training Bible has a section of how an endurance athlete's important performance limiters (VO2max, lactate threshold, etc.) decline over time. IIRC, it talks both about percentage decline per decade and what that might mean on a idealized 40k time trial.
posted by turbodog at 10:01 PM on March 22, 2010

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