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.
Six months younger than Steve Nash, Derek Fisher is the NBA's second-oldest active player. The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard, in his 18th season, is a five-time NBA champion, but he played in only 33 games last year. How does an NBA player stay relevant and, more important, on the court? Some strength training is needed, Williams says, but "being able to exert yourself aerobically with high-energy" is more important. If Williams is right and the key is still being able to play defense and "really exert yourself in spurts," then Fisher may be in the final days of his career. He's been struggling with faster point guards, but he can still nail a three.
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