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Why are athletes retiring older than before?

Athletes are no longer retiring after 30 years old, but they are now even improving their performance.

Roger Federer

The word veteran is no longer associated with physical fatigue but with outstanding and decisive. Photo: Flickr - Yann Caradec

LatinAmerican Post | Juan Manuel Bacallado Gómez

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Leer en español: ¿Por qué los deportistas se están retirando cada vez más tarde?

Until a few years ago, many considered that an athlete's career came to an end after reaching 30 years of age, and in case of not officially retiring, a considerable decrease in performance was noticed and they ended up leaving the elite teams or losing relevance in the positions of the competition. This appeared to be primarily due to physical wear and tear that makes them more prone to recurring and long-lasting injuries as well as less physical endurance. In this way, a valuable factor that these athletes had was lost: experience.

An example is the former tennis player Pete Sampras, who became the top Grand Slam winner in history . However, at 29 years old, the American would start with his physical problems and at 31 he would win his last trophy and then retire two years later -2003-. But now there are tennis players like Rafael Nadal, who at 34 continues to compete in the main tournaments and is in second position in the ATP ranking of the best tennis players of today, only surpassed by Novak Djokovic, 33 years old. While Roger Federer maintains his presence in the top 10 and is, along with Nadal, the maximum Grand Slam winner in history, despite his 39 years of age. Athletes like these exist in all major disciplines, such as Serena Williams (39), Tom Brady (43), Cristiano Ronaldo (36), LeBron James (36) and others who are still figures in their respective sports.

Why is this happening?

It seems that sports today are dominated by figures who a decade ago would have been thought to be "finished" because of their age . The word veteran is not associated with physical fatigue but with outstanding and decisive, why does this happen? It is all due to science and technology, which have been able to overcome the physical decay of aging .

How does technology and science influence?

The improvements have not only come in the physical aspect, but also in the tools that these athletes use, sports brands are constantly working and investing in improving their products focused on the athlete's comfort and performance. As El País reviews, the rackets have optimized their design to have better control and less impact on the tennis players , the same happened with the playing surfaces, which have evolved to be less fast and thus lower the physical demand of the athletes.

The same happens with footwear, essential in any sport. In the case of tennis, Forbes explains how brands design shoes for each surface, whether it be to improve grip on courts such as grass, optimize stability on clay surfaces or improve cushioning on hard courts , all using lightweight materials, ventilated and that stimulate blood circulation. To all this is added the new post-training tools, either to prevent injuries or recover from them in a shorter time. For example, it has become common to use cryogenic chambers that bring the body to temperatures of -150 ° C for a few minutes, replacing traditional ice baths.

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Greater control

Each body is a different world, and this is well known by physical trainers. For this reason, athletes receive a personalized evaluation to the point of permanently examining certain factors such as their heart rate , muscle mass, weight, fat levels, analysis of muscle performance through electric shocks that allow to measure the response of the muscles and thus assess the state of the muscle fibers and know possible injuries . In addition, older athletes stop training “harder” to train smarter and more appropriately for their physical ability.