Health of master track and field athletes: a 16-year follow-up study

Clin J Sport Med. 2006 Mar;16(2):142-8. doi: 10.1097/00042752-200603000-00010.


Objective: To study different aspects of health in master athletes.

Design: A 16-year follow-up study.

Setting: Finland.

Participants: All male Finnish master athletes (N=102, mean age 58.3 years) who in 1985 participated in track and field athletic World Veterans Games. Controls were men, who as young adults had been classified as completely healthy (N=777, mean age 55.0 years).

Main outcome measurements: Health questionnaires at baseline (in 1985) and at 10-year and 16-year follow-ups.

Results: During follow-up, the master athletes self-rated their health as better (P<0.001) and they coped better with leisure-time daily activities (P=0.024) than controls. The adjusted risk for shoulder region (odds ratio 2.84, P<0.03) and Achilles tendon rupture (14.87, P<0.01) after the age of 45 years was higher in the athletes than in the controls. At the 16-year follow-up, none of the athletes, but 9% of controls reported having diabetes mellitus. The adjusted odds ratio of having at least 1 metabolic syndrome disease was 0.43 (P=0.01) in the athletes compared with the controls. At follow-up among subjects without reported coronary heart disease in 1985, the age-adjusted hazard ratio (HR) in the athletes compared with the controls of death from natural-cause was 0.41 (P<0.01).

Conclusions: Master athletes had a lower risk of chronic diseases than the controls. It remains to be determined how far this advantage is due to initial selection and/or incomplete adjustment for covariates.

Clinical relevance: There seems to be no such health risks as to why those who have good training background and feel healthy should avoid participating in master athletics.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Physical Fitness
  • Track and Field / physiology*