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Sports Injuries

17 September 2018

Tennis skills decline equally in male, female pros with age

Researchers found both genders experience the same age-related declines in physical ability.

With the US Open championship that concluded on Sunday in New York City, a new study shows that male and female professional tennis players have the same rate of age-related declines in physical ability.

This was a surprising finding because men and women have different patterns of ageing, according to the researchers at the University of Exeter in England.

Decline in both genders

The researchers' analysis of data on first-serve speed and accuracy among 100 of the world's top male and female players revealed peaks in power (about age 26) and accuracy (about age 28), followed by declines in both.

"We know men and women age differently, and wanted to test when these differences start to emerge," researcher Ruth Archer said in a university news release.

"We know, for example, that women live longer than men, but have poorer health later in life. And studies in other sports have suggested women's performances begin to decline earlier than men," she added.

Men serve faster

"However, we found remarkably similar patterns of performance decay in male and female tennis players," Archer said.

"One possible explanation for this is that we studied a data set of 'outliers' – people at the upper extreme of human capabilities," she said. "Alternatively, selection may not lead to the evolution of differences at this age as they do later in life."

The researchers also found that men serve faster, but less accurately, than women. In both sexes, accuracy tended to increase as power declined, according to the study published recently in the journal Behavioral Ecology.

 

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Sports Injuries Expert

Adrian Rotunno is a medical doctor in the Sports & Exercise Medicine fellowship at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, and qualified physiotherapist. Team physician for Dimension Data pro-cycling, and Boland Rugby. Special interests include endurance sport, in particular cycling, as well as contact sports.

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