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Declining track and field performance trends in recent years in the Austrian best results 1897-2019.

Ganse, Bergita and Degens, Hans (2021) Declining track and field performance trends in recent years in the Austrian best results 1897-2019. The Journal of Musculoskeletal and Neuronal Interactions, 21 (2). pp. 196-205. ISSN 1106-109X

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Abstract

Objectives: Plateauing of world records in sports has been suggested to reflect the limits of human physiology. Possible explanations include reduced doping or declining popularity that may even lead to a decrease in human performance. Such a decrease, however, has not yet been observed. We hypothesized that rather than a performance plateau, performance has recently declined. Methods: Fifteen athletic disciplines of the Austrian annual rankings were analyzed by regression statistics and the average best performance of the last 20 years compared to earlier periods. Results: The best performances occurred between 1980-1999 and were on average 2.56% (men) and 1.67% (women) better than between 2000-2019. This attenuation was significant in men in 200 m, 800 m, 1500 m, 10 km, long jump, javelin throw (p<0.05), high jump, pole vault, discus throw, shot put and hammer throw (p<0.001); and in women in 400 m, long jump, discus throw (p<0.05) and high jump (p<0.001). The greatest performance declines were observed in the men's shot put (9.11%) and hammer throw (11.44%). Conclusions: The Austrian track and field annual best results show a performance decline following a peak, instead of a plateau. Future studies should address the causes and whether this also applies to other sports and countries.

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