Why do many professional sportsmen end up retiring in their mid to late 30s?



Whilst there are some exceptions, the average cricket, rugby, and soccer player retires in their mid-30s and a lot barely play towards the end which gives them an indication that they should retire.

I know that it must be hard to get good offers to play when they reach their mid-30s but what are the body changes that take place when one is in their mid-30s?

It also seems like the athletes in these sports mainly peak between 27-29.

In: Biology

Injury is one reason. As people age they don’t bounce back as quickly as they would in their early 20s. Some professional athletes at that age also have wives and kids to think about. I would want to spend more time with them given money isn’t an issue.

Injuries for sure are an issue especially in contact sports. But the simple fact is as you age you simply can’t perform as well as you use to. Muscle strength begins to decline and contractile properties change/begin to deteriorate

It’s not so much the age, as it is the mileage. Essentially, professional athletes put wear and tear on their bodies unlike pretty much anything in history, and often quite unevenly. The body’s like a finely built machine, for this comparison, and if you use it normally, with a decent load balance, it can go a long while with minimal maintenance, but if you keep putting intense loads on the same three parts for a couple of decades straight, those three parts will wear down faster, and we’re not yet at the point where spare parts are as good as the original components.

Which is why a lot of professional athletes retire in their thirties to spend their remaining years with their remaining functional limbs, etc.

Keep in mind, AFAIK, retiring from sports doesn’t mean *retiring* retiring – I know old footballers who work as youth sports organizers, coachers, mentors, and the like, for example..

Your body can only take so much. Ice Hockey and Football you are pretty much done by thirty. Tennis is easier, but just after thirty there will be players coming up to replace you. The exceptions are baseball and golf. Baseball because it is as much a sport about the knowledge of how to play your position combined with the rare ability to hit major league pitching, you may be able to hang on until your late thirties. Golf because there is nothing other than father time, repetitive strain injury and bad backs to make you call it a day.

For the body changes, your climax in terms of body strength is about 25, after that, it’s going down – of course, not quickly or immediately, but you need gradually more training to stay in shape, and your athletic abilities will decline when maxed out. Of course, up to a certain point, you can compensate that with experience, knowledge in the sports, technique and by working harder — this works better in some sports and some positions than others: NFL kickers or quarterbacks for example can play longer than running backs simply because raw athletics play a smaller role in their success. Professional gymnasts or swimmers on the other hand often retire (from professional level) before they turn 30.

As others mentioned, besides declining physical abilities in general, the body has a harder time to bounce back from injuries, and long-term problems can accumulated (for example, handballers often develop shoulder problems due to the large forces exerted there). How much injuries affect a player is always a bit of good or bad luck obviously, but especially ligaments get weaker the more often you have a rupture.