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How Old Is Too Old To Be a Professional Athlete? Part 3

Right now Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is 39 years old, and probably in his last year as a professional NFL football player.  But did you know that many athletes continue on in their sports for long after that?  The oldest NFL player ever was George Blanda, who retired when he was nearly 49.  The oldest association football player is Kazuyoshi Miura, who is still playing today at 48 years of age.


In the previous two instalments of this series How Old Is Too Old To Be a Professional Athlete Part 1 and Part 2, I talked about how age is a complex factor impacting athletic ability in both negative and positive ways.  Yes, older players are more injury-prone, but they also are more knowledgeable and may showcase incredible leadership. 


This is why it is my recommendation that you put some extra thought into handicapping older players.  It is way too easy to just assume that a player being older is going to adversely impact his ability to perform.  Sometimes older players are much stronger than their younger counterparts, including adversaries on the pitch.  So review the player’s career and recent play, and ask the following questions:


  • What kind of shape is the player in?  Even if he is in “declining” shape compared to what he was in the past, how does that compare to other players he will be contending with, regardless of how old they are?  How strong is he?  How fast?  How are his reflexes?  If his fitness is suffering, how will it impact his play?  Will it cause him to make mistakes? 
  • How injury-prone is the player?  Most older players are going to be somewhat more prone to injury, but the problem is much worse for some than for others.  Review the player’s recent history to see 1-what kinds of injuries he may be struggling with now, and 2-if there are certain types of injuries he is prone to. 
  • Is an older player on a team causing disruptions?  If for example a key player has been sitting out on a lot of matches, the constant shuffling of personnel may weaken strategy and game play for the entire team.
  • Does the older player bring anything to the table which makes up for the drawbacks of age?  Does he have ample knowledge and experience which gives his team an edge over opponents?  Is he a brilliant leader who can ignite enthusiasm and commitment among his teammates?  Will they go the extra mile for him, especially if it is his final season?


Only after you carefully examine the particulars impacting a specific player and his team will you be able to handicap the team correctly and make accurate predictions for the season.  And if you manage to predict a win for a game for which everyone else is predicting a loss because they refused to dig deeper, you will be laughing all the way to the bank.


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