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PLoS One. 2017 Jan 27;12(1):e0170744. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0170744. eCollection 2017.

Career Performance Trajectories in Track and Field Jumping Events from Youth to Senior Success: The Importance of Learning and Development.

Author information

CeRiSM Research Center "Sport, Mountain, and Health", Rovereto, (TN), Italy.
Motor Science Research Center, School of Exercise & Sport Sciences, SUISM, Department of Medical Sciences, University of Turin, Turin, Italy.
School of Exercise & Sport Sciences, SUISM, University of Turin, Turin, Italy.
School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Department of Neurological and Movement Sciences, University of Verona, Verona, Italy.
Department of Biomedical Sciences for Health, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy.
Aspire Academy, Doha, Qatar.
University College London, Department of Computer Science, London, United Kingdom.
University of St. Mark & St. John, Plymouth, United Kingdom.



The idea that early sport success can be detrimental for long-term sport performance is still under debate. Therefore, the aims of this study were to examine the career trajectories of Italian high and long jumpers to provide a better understanding of performance development in jumping events.


The official long-jump and high-jump rankings of the Italian Track and Field Federation were collected from the age of 12 to career termination, for both genders from the year 1994 to 2014. Top-level athletes were identified as those with a percentile of their personal best performance between 97 and 100.


The age of entering competitions of top-level athletes was not different than the rest of the athletic population, whereas top-level athletes performed their personal best later than the rest of the athletes. Top-level athletes showed an overall higher rate of improvement in performance from the age of 13 to the age of 18 years when compared to all other individuals. Only 10-25% of the top-level adult athletes were top-level at the age of 16. Around 60% of the top-level young at the age of 16 did not maintain the same level of performance in adulthood. Female high-jump represented an exception from this trend since in this group most top-level young become top-level adult athletes.


These findings suggest that performance before the age of 16 is not a good predictor of adult performance in long and high jump. The annual rate of improvements from 13 to 18 years should be included as a predictor of success rather than performance per se. Coaches should be careful about predicting future success based on performances obtained during youth in jumping events.

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