We all want to believe that we can remain world-class athletes well past our prime, crossing up defenders in our corporate basketball leagues and diving for touchdowns in our flag football games. Some people can actually stay in shape for decades – and on stages much bigger than local gyms and fields.
Dr. Riley Williams, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at New York's Hospital for Special Surgery, knows what it takes for professional athletes to play into their late 30s and early 40s. "These guys who all played in these different sports for a long time really, really, really had to be focused and motivated mentally to continue to perform at a high level," he says. "Because physiologically, none of us are set up to do that for a really long, long time." Williams is the medical director for the Brooklyn Nets as well as the medical director and orthopedic surgeon for the New York Red Bulls. He spoke to 'Men's Journal' about some of the most impressive veteran athletes still playing today.
How has Adam Vinatieri – at 40 the oldest active NFL player – stuck around for so long? It helps that he's a placekicker, but his position isn't the only key. "He's well-known for his training schedule and for his participation in conditioning exercises and drills with the remainder of the team," Williams says. "Kickers in years past were kind of a bit of a laughingstock with regards to their fitness level and being real football players. But we have a current crop of kickers represented by Adam's generation who really sort of consider themselves as real athletes."
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