Elite Junior Throwers Unlikely to Remain at the Top Level in the Senior Category

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: This study investigated (1) the transition rate of elite world-class throwers, (2) the age of peak performance in either elite junior and/or elite senior athletes, and (3) if relative age effect (RAE) influences the chance of being considered elite in junior and/or senior category. Methods: The career performance trajectories of 5108 throwers (49.9% females) were extracted from the World Athletics database. The authors identified throwers who had reached the elite level (operationally defined as the World all-time top 50 ranked for each age category) in either junior and/or senior category and calculated the junior-to-senior transition rate. The age of peak performance and the RAE were also investigated. Results: The transition rate at 16 and 18 years of age was 6% and 12% in males and 16% and 24% in females, respectively. Furthermore, elite senior throwers reached their personal best later in life than elite junior throwers. The athletes of both genders considered elite in the junior category showed a large RAE. Interestingly, male athletes who reached the elite level in senior category also showed appreciable RAE. Conclusions: Only a few of the athletes who reach the top 50 in the world at 16 or 18 years of age manage to become elite senior athletes, underlining that success at the beginning of an athletic career does not predict success in the athlete’s senior career. Moreover, data suggest that being relatively older may confer a benefit across the whole career of male throwers.

Boccia and Brustio are with the NeuroMuscularFunction Research Group, School of Exercise & Sport Sciences, Dept of Medical Sciences, University of Turin, Turin, Italy; Boccia is also with Dept of Clinical and Biological Sciences at the university. Cardinale is with the Research and Scientific Support Dept, Aspetar Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar; the Faculty of Sport, Health and Wellbeing, Plymouth Marjon University, Plymouth, United Kingdom; and the Inst of Sport Exercise and Health, University College London, London, United Kingdom.

Boccia (gennaro.boccia@unito.it) is corresponding author.

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