Health of Master Track and Field Athletes: A 16-year Follow-up Study

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Abstract

Objective

To study different aspects of health in master athletes.

Design

A 16-year follow-up study.

Setting

Finland.

Participants

All male Finnish master athletes (N=102, mean age 58.3 years) who in 1985 participated in track and field athletic World Veterans Games. Controls were men, who as young adults had been classified as completely healthy (N=777, mean age 55.0 years).

Main Outcome Measurements

Health questionnaires at baseline (in 1985) and at 10-year and 16-year follow-ups.

Results

During follow-up, the master athletes self-rated their health as better (P<0.001) and they coped better with leisure-time daily activities (P=0.024) than controls. The adjusted risk for shoulder region (odds ratio 2.84, P<0.03) and Achilles tendon rupture (14.87, P<0.01) after the age of 45 years was higher in the athletes than in the controls. At the 16-year follow-up, none of the athletes, but 9% of controls reported having diabetes mellitus. The adjusted odds ratio of having at least 1 metabolic syndrome disease was 0.43 (P=0.01) in the athletes compared with the controls. At follow-up among subjects without reported coronary heart disease in 1985, the age-adjusted hazard ratio (HR) in the athletes compared with the controls of death from natural-cause was 0.41 (P<0.01).

Conclusions

Master athletes had a lower risk of chronic diseases than the controls. It remains to be determined how far this advantage is due to initial selection and/or incomplete adjustment for covariates.

Clinical Relevance

There seems to be no such health risks as to why those who have good training background and feel healthy should avoid participating in master athletics.

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