The aging athlete

Am J Sports Med. 1989 Mar-Apr;17(2):187-96. doi: 10.1177/036354658901700208.


In summary, the purpose of this material is to demonstrate that the aging athlete does differ from the younger competitor in many facets. There are physiological, structural, and psychosocial differences which distinguish them as a unique entity in the athletic world. Despite the unavoidable alterations that the passage of time imposes on our bodies, these competitors are still capable of incredible performances of strength, skill, and endurance. In reference to injury, these athletes are at risk from both their current program and their past indiscretions. The literature strongly suggests that the greatest threat to the health of the aging athlete is not the aging process itself but rather inactivity. Astrand concurs with this and states that "there is less risk in activity than in continuous inactivity--it is more advisable to pass a careful physical examination if one intends to be sedentary in order to establish whether one's state of health is good enough to stand the inactivity." It appears that the body systems were designed to reinforce activity and when there is disuse, a large number of atrophic changes take place. It has been estimated that regular exercise may be able to retard the physiologic decline associated with old age as much as 50%. Taken in this light, exercise is truly a fountain of youth from which we can all rejuvenate ourselves. Science has proven that life does not begin at 40, but it has also demonstrated that it does not have to end there. As one author so aptly states, "Not too many years ago the words grandma and grandpa conjured images of rocking chairs and inactivity."(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology*
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology
  • Athletic Injuries / therapy
  • Humans