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Differences in career longevity before and after implementation of the Women’s Tennis Association Tour Age Eligibility Rule and Player Development Programmes: a 25-year study
  1. Carol L Otis1,
  2. Brian Hainline2,
  3. Christopher Harwood3,
  4. Neeru A Jayanthi4,
  5. Rick Jensen5,
  6. Ashley Keber6,
  7. Emily Kroshus7,8,
  8. Thomas Livengood6,
  9. Kathleen Stroia6,
  10. Ann Quinn9,
  11. Sarka Vitkova6,
  12. Stephanie A Kliethermes10
  1. 1Unaffiliated, Delray Beach, Florida, USA
  2. 2National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
  3. 3Exercise Science, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK
  4. 4Sports Medicine Center, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  5. 5Rick Jensen’s Performance Center, Aliso Viejo, California, USA
  6. 6WTA Tour, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA
  7. 7Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
  8. 8Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, Seattle Children's Research Institute, Seattle, Washington, USA
  9. 9Quintessential Edge, Blackburn, Victoria, Australia
  10. 10Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Stephanie A Kliethermes, Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA; kliethermes{at}


Objectives To assess differences in career longevity, as a potential marker of athlete well-being, before and after the 1995 implementation of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Age Eligibility Rule (AER) and Player Development Programmes (PDP), which focused on organisational, physical and psychosocial education, skill building and support for adolescent athletes (≤17 years).

Methods Career longevity data were collected through 2019 on adolescent players who began professional tournament play between 1970 and 2014 and reached a WTA singles ranking of 1–150 for a minimum of 1 week during their careers. Players were separated into pre-AER/PDP and post-AER/PDP groups, consisting of those who played their first professional events (FPE) before or after 1 January 1995. Measures of career longevity included career duration and premature retirement.

Results Eight-hundred and eleven players were included in this study (51% pre-AER/PDP). The median career duration was 14.2 years for the post-AER/PDP group compared with 12.1 years for the pre-AER/PDP group (p<0.001). Moreover, post-AER/PDP players had higher probabilities of 10-year and 15-year careers compared with pre-AER/PDP players. After adjusting for age at FPE, athletes in the pre-AER/PDP group had an increased risk of shorter career duration (HR 1.55; 95% CI 1.31 to 1.83) and increased odds of premature retirement (OR 5.39; 95% CI 2.28 to 12.75) than athletes in the post-AER/PDP group.

Conclusions Adolescent athletes participating on the WTA after the combined AER/PDP initiative had longer career durations, higher probabilities of 10-year and 15-year careers, and decreased risk of premature retirement compared with those participating prior to AER/PDP. Organisational practices that encompass both education and competition regulation can positively affect career longevity related to improving athlete well-being.

  • Injuries
  • Athletes

Data availability statement

No data are available. Data used in this manuscript are contained in a WTA database and not publicly available.

Statistics from

Data availability statement

No data are available. Data used in this manuscript are contained in a WTA database and not publicly available.

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to, reviewed and approved the final manuscript. SK is the guarantor of this manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests AK, TL, KS and SV are employed full-time by the WTA Tour. CLO, BH, CH, NAJ, RJ, KS and AQ are all members of the WTA Player Development Advisory Panel. RJ additionally serves as a player development consultant and advisor to the WTA performance health team. SAK and EK declare no competing interests.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.

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