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.
The Yankees legend has the most regular-season saves (652) and postseason saves (42) in MLB history, as well as the best postseason ERA (0.70). Though he missed most of 2012 with a torn ACL, that was his first trip to the disabled list since 2003. The 43-year-old closer was the oldest active MLB player this past season, which is absolutely amazing for a pitcher.
"To pitch over a long amount of time without injury to your shoulder or elbow is really quite unique," Williams says. "Your mechanics have to be so in tune and perfect that you don't put an inordinate amount of stress to either one of those joints in an action which is inherently stressful."
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