5
$\begingroup$

It is often said that in gymnastics that gymnasts usually peak between the ages of 16-19. A lot of this has to do with the extreme wear and tear on the joints that intense gymnastics practice causes. This is especially pronounced because of the intense training regimens that many gymnasts go through while their bodies are still growing and hence more vulnerable to injury. Gymnasts show an increased risk for osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and chronic joint pain, and some professional gymnasts even exhibit stunted puberty due to the intense training and have to take hormone supplements after they retire to go through puberty properly. And of course the aches and pains of growing older tend to make gymnastics a young person's sport. This is true of every sport or job that requires intense physical activity, but tends to be worse for gymnasts because they start training so young.

My question is what would happen to a hypothetical gymnast who exhibited a degree of superhuman durability and ability to recover from injury, and how would it affect their ability to perform? I'm not talking about a Superman-level flying brick or a Wolverine level to regrow limbs, but a minor improvement over the baseline human condition. More like "peak human" or slightly above that than anything else. A lot of problems you see in athletes can be attributed to the fact that many parts of our body, such as our cartilages, aren't very resilient to stress and don't heal very well. Would the ability to recover from injuries that would force regular athletes to retire given sufficient time and a longer career of activity make older individuals better and more skilled gymnasts than younger ones because they have more experience and instinctively know how their body handles better? Would older gymnasts be able to more reliably perform feats that less experienced individuals couldn't? Or is there a ceiling on gymnastic ability due to growth or other factors that no amount of experience or superhuman durability could circumvent that would allow older individuals from being able to perform gymnastic feats on a similar level to teenagers (even admitting that Oksana Chusovitina being an Olympic athlete is a thing)?

$\endgroup$
2
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ My understanding about young gymnasts was that it was more a factor that their joints were not completely formed, and thus were more flexible than those of adults. A bonus is that they tend to heal better because they are still growing. It's a chicken-or-the-egg question. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Mar 1 at 5:58
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @DWKraus except of course chickens are much better at gymnastics than eggs. $\endgroup$ Mar 1 at 9:14
2
$\begingroup$

Not just the effect of gymnastics body but age in general. Much of age is repeated wear and tear on the body. When you're young your, body easily makes repairs by replacing old cells with new ones, but this process dramatically slows down as you grow older. Presumably someone with even slow regeneration would need cells that replenish themselves more quickly then the average human. If this rate of healing remains the same this would have a profound positive impact on their body as they grow older.

The more you do anything the better at it you will be. While there is probably a cap on this it's probably true for long enough. So yes, a more experienced gymnast would probably win against a young, less experienced one especially if he had the enhancement of regeneration and durability.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

I do think your world could achieve this this modest gains to human healing. Our bodies do a pretty good job of mostly healing damages during our growth years, and then the quality of repairs tapers off, so wear and injury accumulate (aka, aging) all the way to fatal levels. If there was a small shift, ever so slight, and the repair process were able to maintain a person at peak growth, and not age, I think you'd end up with someone who appears about 23 years old, but who is able to acquire a lifetime of skill and experience. Maybe they still get the odd injury here and there, roll an ankle, break an arm, whatever, BUT, they heal like a teenager back to this 23 year old ideal form.

With that as the given, I do think that on a long enough timeline, you'd see a lot more athletes able to eventually gain what we would consider to be Olympic level skills and abilities, to the limits of their body type. Some would still be swimmer body types, some lifter body types, some skater body types, but each type would maintain peak form for a very long time. Injury and disease would still be the likely leading causes of death, with those who live long enough still someday succumbing to the eventual effects of aging, but at a much later age, and possibly much faster once it starts. Aubrey DeGray has done some talks on this type of thing in talks where he goes into science about extending the better part of life, not the decline phase, to have people living to be 200. (spoiler alert, he thinks the first person to live to be 200 has already been born, he just doesn't have any idea who it will be)

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.