Why Are Professional Athletes Retiring Later? Is it Science?

Sport can easily be called the oldest form of human activity. People have been engaged in sports since ancient times and continue to do so to this day.

In 2024, sports became a global phenomenon. It’s no longer just a way to determine who is stronger, more agile, and quicker; now it’s also about politics and business. Additionally, it penetrates into new dimensions such as computer and virtual sports. Moreover, it is constantly used to fuel markets like gambling and even gambling csgo, which remains a fairly niche sphere.

However, despite all the variables that may or may not affect the sports industry now and in the future, there are things that remain unchanged. And these things are athletes. Athletes are the cornerstone of the sports industry. They popularize various sports, motivate new generations by their example, and serve as role models for millions of people around the world.

However, as is the case everywhere, athletes are not eternal, and sooner or later they have to say goodbye to their careers. Yet, more and more often, athletes of international level try to stay in the game longer, and this will be the subject of our article. Let’s consider why professional athletes retire later and what lies behind it.

The thirst for competition is the basis of a long-lasting career. 

The primary reason why professional athletes do not rush into retirement is their desire to compete. And it’s quite logical.

It’s hard to imagine leaving behind something you’ve been doing your whole life. It’s no secret that to compete at the highest level in any sport, whether it’s track and field or water polo, it takes years, even decades, to hone your skills. Having spent so much time in sports, it’s unlikely that you will easily give up an activity that has been an integral part of your life.

Moreover, if you are already a professional athlete, then most likely sports are your bread and butter. And that’s another reason why professional athletes retire later.

Salary, prestige, and multimillion-dollar contracts

If once sports began as a means of killing time and something unserious, something for entertainment, now the rules of the game have fundamentally changed. In 2024, big sports became big business. And this is reflected in the salaries and fortunes of the best athletes.

For winning a Grand Slam tournament, the winner receives $3,250,000 (not including sponsorship deals with brands like Rolex), footballers earn tens of millions per year, and golfers even more. Of course, all this affects the desire to stay “in the game” a little longer, sometimes disregarding sporting performance, guided solely by rational aspects such as salary. And there are plenty of examples of this approach.

Take football, probably the most popular sport in the world. Messi and Ronaldo, two of the best, if not the best, players of all time, are “not the same” for objective reasons: age takes its toll. However, this does not prevent legends from continuing their careers in America, as Messi did, or in Saudi Arabia, as Ronaldo did. Both leagues cannot boast prestigious status, but this does not prevent such “giants” of football from continuing to play and earn decent money.

And there are actually many more examples like this, which is logical. However, if you find it somehow unethical and mercenary, you can look at this practice from a different angle. Messi and Ronaldo, by their presence alone, popularize football in America and Saudi Arabia, which increases the interest of local youth in the game and contributes to its development. However, money is unlikely to be the central reason for delaying retirement. Rather, not only they.

Modern medicine – a way to prolong a career for a long time

Another equally important aspect alongside the desire to play and the financial side of big sports is modern medicine. More precisely, what it can offer now.

If fifty years ago a torn meniscus could end a career, now such an injury is treated, and moreover, one can recover and continue playing afterward. This applies to other serious injuries as well. New research about how the body heals, and improved technology to help speed up recovery helps even the “older” athletes to get back on the horse, when in the past a injury later in their career may have meant that it was over. 

In general, sports have always been a risky activity, often with a risk to life. With the development of medicine, injuries have become less prolonged and/or fatal than they used to be, but they are still no less dangerous. Innovations in the medical field do not reduce the chance of getting injured during a match or game. However, what does reduce it are innovative practices in training and the approach to athlete preparation. Sports scientists are continually carrying out research about how the body works and therefore adjusting training methodologies to improve athlete performance, and reduce risk of injury, and keep them in peak shape a lot longer than they used to. 

Innovative practices and approaches to training as a guarantee of a longer career

Evolving from a pastime to a huge market, alongside sports, the spheres around it have also evolved. Nowadays, we are talking about innovative practices in athlete preparation and coaching practices.

If once sports were practiced haphazardly, playing on the backyard with peers, like Pelé did, and still became legends, now the foundation for becoming a professional player is much more solid. Sports clubs, sports schools, academies, youth national teams and club academies – all of this contributes to the development of athletes and, as a result, prolongs their careers in the future due to a strong foundation.

Additionally, modern sports pay great attention to the mental health of athletes. Engaging in sports at the highest level, when tens of thousands of eyes are watching your every move, inevitably exposes you to immense stress. This can lead to premature career termination. Today, thanks to the work of staff psychologists and other specialists, the risk of career termination due to mental problems has significantly decreased.


With the development of technology, sports science, and the industry of big sports, professional athletes can end their careers later and then find themselves in related fields. The combination of financial benefits from playing at the highest level, passion for the game, modern medicine, ongoing research, and innovative practices and approaches in athlete training and preparation contribute to an increase in the average age of career termination.

Written by Austin Crane

Austin is the principle web director for Untamed Science and Stone Age Man. He is also the web-director of the series for the High School biology, Middle Grades Science and Elementary Science content. When Austin isn't making amazing content for the web, he's out on his mountain bike or in a canoe.

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