The Constituent Year Effect in European Track and Field Masters Athletes: Evidence of Participation and Performance Advantages

in Journal of Aging and Physical Activity
Restricted access

Purchase article

USD  $24.95

Student 1 year subscription

USD  $76.00

1 year subscription

USD  $101.00

Student 2 year subscription

USD  $144.00

2 year subscription

USD  $189.00

Inequalities in relative age distribution have previously been demonstrated to influence participation and performance achievements in Masters athletes. The purpose of the present study was to examine the participation- and performance-related constituent year effect among Masters athletes (N = 2,474) from the European Masters Track and Field Championships across subdisciplines and age. The results indicated that a participation-related constituent year effect was observed. The likelihood of participation was significantly higher for athletes in their first year of any 5-year age category (χ2 = 149.8, p < .001) and decreased significantly when they were in the fourth or fifth year. The results also indicated a performance-related constituent year effect. Masters athletes in their first year won significantly more medals than expected based on observed participation rate (χ2 = 23.39, p < .001). We compare our results with the existing literature and discuss potential mechanisms for this constituent year effect.

Helsen is with the Research Centre for Movement Control & Neuroplasticity, Department of Movement Sciences, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium. Medic is with the Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Western Australia, Australia. Starkes is with McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Williams is with the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.

Helsen (werner.helsen@kuleuven.be) is corresponding author.
  • Albuquerque, M., Lage, G., Costa, V., Ferreira, R., Penna, E., Moraes, L., & Diniz, L. (2012). Relative age effect in Olympic taekwondo athletes. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 114(2), 461–468.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Allen, S.V., & Hopkins, W.G. (2015). Age of peak competitive performance of elite athletes: A systematic review. Sports Medicine, 45, 1431–1441. PubMed ID: 26088954 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Baker, J., Janning, C., Wong, H., Cobley, S., & Schorer, J. (2014). Variations in relative age effects in individual sports: Skiing, figure skating and gymnastics. European Journal of Sport Science, 14, S183–S190. PubMed ID: 24444205 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Barnsley, R.H., & Thompson, A.H. (1988). Birthdate and success in minor hockey: The key to the NHL. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 20, 167–176. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Barnsley, R.H., Thompson, A.H., & Barnsley, P.E. (1985). Hockey success and birthdate: The relative age effect. Canadian Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation Journal, 51, 23–28.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bradbury, J.C. (2009). Peak athletic performance and ageing: Evidence from baseball. Journal of Sports Sciences, 27, 599–610. PubMed ID: 19308873 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cobley, S., Baker, J., Wattie, N., & McKenna, J. (2009). Annual age-grouping and athlete development. A meta-analytical review of relative age effects in sport. Sports Medicine, 39, 235–256. PubMed ID: 19290678 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Côté, J., MacDonald, D.J., Baker, J., & Abernethy, B. (2006). When “where” is more important than “when”: Birthplace and birthdate effects on the achievement of sporting expertise. Journal of Sports Sciences, 24, 1065–1073. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • European Veterans Athletics Championship Indoor. (2011). Belangrijke Zaken Bij Het Afsluiten Van Een Autoverzekering. Retrieved from http://www.evaci2011.be/nl/informatie/brochure

    • Export Citation
  • Geard, D., Rebar, A.L., Reaburn, P., & Dionigi, R.A. (2018). Testing a model of successful aging in a cohort of masters swimmers. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 26(2), 183–193. PubMed ID: 28605264 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Grondin, S., Deschaies, P., & Nault, L.P. (1984). Trimesters of birth and school output. Apprent Social, 16, 169–174.

  • Helsen, W.F., van Winckel, J., & Williams, M. (2005). The relative age effect in youth soccer across Europe. Journal of Sports Sciences, 23, 629–636. PubMed ID: 16195011 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hodge, K., Allen, J.B., & Smellie, L. (2008). Motivation in masters sport: Achievement and social goals. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 9, 157–176. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hritz, N.M., & Ramos, W.D. (2005). To travel or to compete: Motives of masters swimmers. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 2, 298–312.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hunter, S.K., & Stevens, A.A. (2013). Sex differences in marathon running with advanced age: Physiology or participation? Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 45, 148–156. PubMed ID: 22843112 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kundert, A.M.L., Di Gangi, S., Nikolaidis, P.T., & Knechtle, B. (2018). Jumping and throwing performance in the World Masters’ Athletic Championships 1975–2016. Research in Sports Medicine, 14, 1–38. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McKendry, J., Breen, L., Shad, B., & Greig, C. (2018). Muscle morphology and performance in master athletes: A systematic review and meta-analyses. Ageing Research Reviews, 45, 62–82. PubMed ID: 29715523 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McPhee, J.S., French, D.P., Jackson, D., Nazroo, J., Pendleton, N, & Degens, H. (2016). Physical activity in older age: Perspectives for healthy ageing and frailty. Biogerontology, 17, 567–580. PubMed ID: 26936444 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Medic, N. (2009). Understanding masters athletes’ motivation for sport. In J. Baker, S. Horton, & P.L. Weir (Eds.), The masters athlete: Understanding the role of sport and exercise in optimizing aging (pp. 105–121). New York, NY: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Medic, N., Starkes, J.L., & Young, B.W. (2007). Examining relative age effects on performance achievement and participation rates of Masters athletes. Journal of Sports Sciences, 25, 1377–1384. PubMed ID: 17786690 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Medic, N., Young, B.W., & Grove, J.R. (2013). Perceptions of five-year competitive categories: Model of how relative age influences competitiveness in masters sport. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 12, 724–729. PubMed ID: 24421732

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Medic, N., Young, B.W., & Medic, D. (2011). Participation-related relative age effects in Masters swimming: A 6-year retrospective longitudinal analysis. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29, 29–36. PubMed ID: 21077002 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Medic, N., Young, B.W., Starkes, J.L., Weir, P.L., & Grove, J.R. (2009a). Gender, age, and sport differences in relative age effects among US Masters swimming and track and field athletes. Journal of Sports Sciences, 27, 1535–1544. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Medic, N., Young, B.W., Starkes, J.L., Weir, P.L., & Grove, J.R. (2009b). Relative age effect in masters sports: Replication and extension. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 80, 669–675.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Musch, J., & Grondin, S. (2001). Unequal competition as an impediment to personal development: A review of the relative age effect in sport. Developmental Review, 21, 147–167. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nikolaidis, P.T., Di Gangi, S., & Knechtle, B. (2018). World records in half-marathon running by sex and age. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 26(4), 629–636. PubMed ID: 29431565 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nikolaidis, P.T., Zingg, M.A., & Knechtle, B. (2017). Performance trends in age‐group runners from 100 m to marathon—The World Championships from 1975 to 2015. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 27, 1588–1596. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stevenson, C.L. (2002). Seeking identities: Toward an understanding of the athletic careers of Masters swimmers. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 37, 131–146. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Van Rossum, J.H.A. (2006). Relative age effect revisited: Findings from the dance domain. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 102, 302–308. PubMed ID: 16826648 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wattie, N., Cobley, S., & Baker, J. (2008). Toward a unified understanding of relative age effects. Journal of Sports Sciences, 18, 737–740.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weir, P.L., Kerr, T., Hodges, N.J., McKay, S.M., & Starkes, J.L. (2002). Master swimmers: How are they different from younger elite swimmers? An examination of practice and performance patterns. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 10, 41–63. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wilson, M.A. (2005). Great expectations: How do athletes of different expectancies attribute their perception of personal athletic performance? Journal of Sport Behavior, 28, 392–406.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wright, V.J., & Perricelli, B.C. (2008). Age-related rates of decline in performance among elite senior athletes. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 36, 443–450. PubMed ID: 18055922 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Young, B.W., & Starkes, J.L. (2005). Career-span analyses of track performance: Longitudinal data present a more optimistic view of age-related performance decline. Experimental Aging Research, 31, 69–90. PubMed ID: 15842074 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Young, B.W., Weir, P.L., Starkes, J.L., & Medic, N. (2008). Does lifelong training temper age-related decline in sport performance? Interpreting differences between cross-sectional and longitudinal data. Experimental Aging Research, 34, 27–48. PubMed ID: 18189166 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 21 21 21
Full Text Views 1 1 1
PDF Downloads 0 0 0