BackgroundThe mechanisms underlying the relative age effect (RAE), a biased distribution of birth dates, in sport events have been investigated for more than two decades. The present study comprised an historical analysis involving the most recent quarter-century (1993–2018) on RAEs among Japanese male professional athletes (soccer, baseball, basketball, and volleyball) to clarify how the RAEs changed over time.MethodsBirth data were obtained from 7805 Japanese male professional athletes registered in 1993, 2001, 2010, and 2018. The athletes were divided into four groups based on their month of birth: quartiles Q1 (April–June), Q2 (July–September), Q3 (October–December), and Q4 (January–March of the following year). In addition, based on the data in 1993 for soccer and baseball and in 2010 for basketball and volleyball, the expected numbers of players were calculated in 2001, 2010, and 2018 for soccer and baseball, and 2018 for basketball and volleyball.ResultsSignificant RAEs were observed among soccer and baseball players in 1993, 2001, 2010, and 2018, and strong tendencies of RAEs were found among basketball and volleyball players in 2010 and 2018. The magnitudes of the RAEs in soccer, baseball, and volleyball decreased over time, but not in basketball.ConclusionThe exact reasons for the decreasing or unchanging RAEs among these professional players remain unclear, but socio-cultural factors, such as low birthrates and the popularity of sports in Japan, might be related to the changing RAEs.