When the Carolina Panthers face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, one big factor may be the aging athlete.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is 39-years-old and has recovered from four neck surgeries, while Panther’s quarterback Cam Newton is 26. The 13-year gap between Newton and Manning is the largest age gap between quarterbacks in Super Bowl history.
The question of the aging athlete was front and center during the Australian Open finals match this year. Angelique Kerber, 28, of Germany, defeated tennis legend Serena Williams, 34.
Williams struggled throughout the match to reach balls, and her speed on the court was visibly diminished.
“Over time, the athlete tends to lose a lot of power in terms of muscle strength, especially in the lower extremities,” said Dr. Michael Heart of Carolina Family Practice and Sports Medicine. “Most notably, those changes start occurring around the mid-30s. Some data has supported that the peak age is around 29.”
Hart said there are ways for some athletes to overcome the disadvantages that come with age.
“They key thing that’s assisting Peyton Manning, or other elderly athletes, is just their consistency in regards to their training,” he said.
Hart said younger athletes—like Newton—can more easily bounce back from time off from trailing in order to heal.
Progress is being made with improvements in helmets and padding, and with greater awareness of the first signs of a concussion, and taking players out of games until they recover, Hart said.
WRAL’s Dr. Allen Mask said discouraging helmet-to-helmet hits with fines and suspensions may help, but it’s a violent sport.
“Some level of that aggression is what fans enjoy about football,” Mask said.
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