Tom Watson, at the age of 59, came excruciatingly close to winning the British Open in Scotland last weekend, being denied on a shoot-out. The blog Stumbling and Mumbling has an interesting entry on the relationship between age and performance, particularly in golf. Two economists, Harold Fried and Loren Tauer, have noted the existence of an n-shaped quadratic relationship in performance with age – the peak apparently is 36.
Another old stager, David Beckham, aged 34, has also made the headlines recently after a tumultuous return to MLS from a loan spell in Italy with giants AC Milan. Beckham’s spell at Milan came as a big surprise to many British observers, who had perhaps snobbishly seen his move to LA Galaxy as the end of his career. However he is now back in the England team, and attracting interest from English Premier League clubs again. Possibly the 2010 World Cup is motivating him.
Though the research was carried out in golf, it would be very interesting to consider a similar analysis in soccer, which is a sport that makes very different demands on the body. Folklore has it that the age is somewhere between 24 and 26, and I would be interested as to whether that belief has any basis in established research.