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But some athletes seem to be better at limiting its effects.
Kazuyoshi Miura defied belief in starting a Japanese top-league football game aged 53 this week.
That may be exceptional, but there are others who have achieved similar feats in recent times.
Jason Rutledge turned out for the Southland Stags last week at 42.
Vince Carter retired from the NBA this year aged 43.
Zdeno Chara (43) remains active in ice hockey’s NHL.
And the list goes on.
University of Otago Associate Professor Melanie Bussey said players who lasted that long were special.
Injury prevention was the biggest factor in maintaining longevity.
"I think people that are able to do it at that top level are very special in a lot of ways," she said.
"It really is about injury; it’s probably the thing that’s career limiting for most individuals at really high levels, particularly in contact sports.
"Usually, just accumulation of injuries and accumulation of pain and all the other things that come with it.
"As you age, it’s harder to maintain high levels of tissue viability."
She said older athletes normally needed to work harder to remain injury-free.
In that sense, mental factors came into it — they had to want to put the extra work in.
Being able to do that at a high level was impressive.
Although in other ways it could make it easier as professional athletes had access to the time, knowledge and facilities to put the extra work in.
Bussey said the biggest risk factor in picking up new injuries was previous injuries.
Many top athletes with longevity usually did not have so many injuries, particularly catastrophic ones, throughout their career.
She said there was not much f research in determining what made athletes injury-prone.
However, there was a genetic component — some athletes were just genetically better equipped to withstand things that may cause injury to others.
She also said some athletes were better at protecting themselves.
Older players, in particular, may be more risk-adverse when it came to putting themselves into situations that could result in injury.
Teams were learning not to flog their athletes too, as the concept of load management and resting became prominent in sport.
"We’re more aware of types of load as well," Bussey said.
"We used to do a lot more high intensity loading for longer in the season and pre-season than we do now.
"Now we’re more careful about picking times for high-intensity loading and we understand how much time muscle and tissue needs to regenerate and heal."
It was something that could be crucial going forward.
As more was understood about how to keep athletes healthy, Bussey felt it was likely they would be able to prolong their careers.
"I think we will see more athletes staying in the game longer.
"We’re getting smarter about training, injury prevention and tracking and recording injury.
"I think all of these things will eventually lead to a healthier athlete population which means they should be able to stick around longer in the sport."