Is There a Limit to How Good Olympians Can Get?

Feb 5, 2018

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At each Olympics, athletes set new records and achieve new feats not imagined a few years ago. For example, Brian Boitano wowed the judges in 1988 with his triple jumps. Now male figure skaters are doing quad jumps: four rotations.

Some of the reasons for this forward progress include more specialization by athletes at an earlier age, advances in technology, and more people participating in sports. (Humanity has a much deeper bench now.)

But there has to be a physical limit to this progress. Right?

Cynthia Bir is Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. Sports fans may know her work as lead scientist for the ESPN series SportsScience.

She says, yes, there is a limit to what the human body can do, but we haven’t reached it in any sport she can think of.

“Sports biomechanics and sports science is really a new field,” she said. 

“There are still things we are learning about the human body.”