Concerns have long existed over the participation of adolescent athletes in professional sports. In 2004, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour (WTA Tour) commissioned a Professional Development Advisory Panel (PDAP) to evaluate the WTA Tour’s age eligibility rule (AER) and professional development programmes (PDPs) for female tennis players since their inception in 1995. More than 75% of the 628 respondents supported the principles of the AER, and 90% indicated a need for PDPs. Statistical analysis of WTA Tour players’ careers found that premature retirements (players leaving the Tour at or before age 21) decreased significantly from 7% before the AER to less than 1% afterward, and median career length increased by 43%. The PDAP recommends that the WTA Tour continues a phased-in, developmentally appropriate AER, enhances the PDPs, and works with other sport governing bodies to coordinate rules and programmes at earlier ages to aid the transition of adolescents into adult sports.
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Sponsorship: there was no sponsorship.
Competing interests: AK, KAS and KM have been employees of the WTA Tour, Inc. There are no other competing interests
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