Is it fair to measure relative improvement this way?

This is a fantastic article and I am reading it from top to bottom, so it's possible my question is addressed further down. However, I am wondering if you explored other ways of measuring relative improvement after age 19. It seems like "percent improvement" is not ideal, since clearly there can't be 100% improvement and a 10% improvement is much much better than a 5% improvement. Although, it's tough to pick another measure since the athletes themselves are defining what's "physically possible." :) I don't have a good answer, just wondering if you considered something else. One idea would be to measure how many standard deviations their speed moves from the mean sprinting speed of males that age. But that's not good since (A) that information is probably not available and (B) these people are on the tails so a normal distribution is probably not applicable. Thanks!

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1 Answer
Accepted answer

Hi Steven,

Thanks for your interest in our paper.

Regarding your question, we agree with you that it seems difficult to meaningfully summarize improvement among elite sprinters. We used percentage improvement after age 19 because it was easy to calculate, and we thought it might be helpful to readers. Also, at the urging of the editor (S. Mueller), we added a supplemental figure showing the improvement trajectories for the fastest 10 U.S. men. We hope that might be of use.

We were not overly concerned about characterizing improvement trajectories because the DPM does not a make a quantitative predictiction regarding them.

Best regards,


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Thank you for your reply, Robert! That makes sense and I agree that it's not important regarding the DPM hypothesis. I did find the supplemental figure interesting. Excellent paper, congratulations and thank you!

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