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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2005 Jun;37(6):1053-60.

Growth of highly versus moderately trained competitive female artistic gymnasts.

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Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.



To investigate whether growth was adversely affected in 137 young competitive female artistic gymnasts involved in different training volumes.


This was a 2-yr prospective cohort study in which height, sitting height, leg length, weight, skinfolds, and pubertal status were measured in competitive advanced (20-27 h x wk(-1)) and intermediate (7.5-22 h x wk(-1)) training level female gymnasts every 6-12 months. Biological parameters of the adolescent growth curve were estimated using the Preece-Baines growth model. Growth rates were estimated for both groups from the mixed-longitudinal data.


Estimated ages at peak height velocity (PHV) (13-13.5 yr) and mean PHV (6.2-6.4 cm x yr(-1)) for the advanced- and intermediate-level gymnasts suggest that these gymnasts were later maturing and experienced a blunting of the growth spurt relative to reference values for U.S. youth. Comparison of growth velocities by pubertal status revealed that height velocity was lower in the advanced- versus the intermediate-level peripubertal gymnasts, which was due to a significant reduction in sitting height velocity (2.3 vs 3.1 cm x yr(-1), P. < 0.05). No marked acceleration in height or sitting height velocity was detected in the advanced-level gymnasts from pre- to peripuberty. Inspection of individual growth rates revealed that over 35% of the pre- and peripubertal gymnasts experienced growth faltering (height velocity less than 4.5 cm x yr(-1)) during follow-up.


Advanced-and intermediate-training level competitive female gymnasts tend to exhibit an adolescent growth spurt that is similar in timing and tempo to short, normal, slowly maturing girls, but the high frequency of growth faltering suggests that training may alter the tempo of growth and maturation in some, but not all, female gymnasts.

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