A comparison on the performance of elite track and field athletes that were both younger and older than 20 revealed that just a few of the junior athletes see a similar success as their older athletes.
The researchers think physical maturation is behind the disparity, with athletes who mature early reaping the benefits early, seeing their best times, jumps and throws at a younger age than Olympians, many of whom mature later.
"You see it in a lot of sports," said Robert Chapman, assistant professor in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington and a former cross country coach at IU. "Elite performers in senior sports tend to be the ones who mature later. But it's hard to measure, particularly in men, the rate at which they mature. I had a very successful runner grow 4 inches in college while he ran for me."
Here are some of the findings:
- Senior athletes performed best at a significantly later age than their junior counterparts in all four men's event groups and three of four women's event groups.
- Compared to the star junior athletes, the senior athletes showed a significantly greater percentage of improvement in lifetime best performance compared to their best performances as junior athletes in six of eight groups.
- 23.6 percent of the junior athletes studied went on to medal in the Olympics.
- 29.9 percent of the Olympians studied won medals earlier in their career while competing in the Junior World Championships.
Foss will discuss his findings during a poster presentation from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Friday, May 31, in Hall C.