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Sports Med. 2013 Sep;43(9):783-802. doi: 10.1007/s40279-013-0058-5.

Role of intensive training in the growth and maturation of artistic gymnasts.

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1
Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA. rmalina@1skyconnect.net

Abstract

Short stature and later maturation of youth artistic gymnasts are often attributed to the effects of intensive training from a young age. Given limitations of available data, inadequate specification of training, failure to consider other factors affecting growth and maturation, and failure to address epidemiological criteria for causality, it has not been possible thus far to establish cause-effect relationships between training and the growth and maturation of young artistic gymnasts. In response to this ongoing debate, the Scientific Commission of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) convened a committee to review the current literature and address four questions: (1) Is there a negative effect of training on attained adult stature? (2) Is there a negative effect of training on growth of body segments? (3) Does training attenuate pubertal growth and maturation, specifically, the rate of growth and/or the timing and tempo of maturation? (4) Does training negatively influence the endocrine system, specifically hormones related to growth and pubertal maturation? The basic information for the review was derived from the active involvement of committee members in research on normal variation and clinical aspects of growth and maturation, and on the growth and maturation of artistic gymnasts and other youth athletes. The committee was thus thoroughly familiar with the literature on growth and maturation in general and of gymnasts and young athletes. Relevant data were more available for females than males. Youth who persisted in the sport were a highly select sample, who tended to be shorter for chronological age but who had appropriate weight-for-height. Data for secondary sex characteristics, skeletal age and age at peak height velocity indicated later maturation, but the maturity status of gymnasts overlapped the normal range of variability observed in the general population. Gymnasts as a group demonstrated a pattern of growth and maturation similar to that observed among short-, normal-, late-maturing individuals who were not athletes. Evidence for endocrine changes in gymnasts was inadequate for inferences relative to potential training effects. Allowing for noted limitations, the following conclusions were deemed acceptable: (1) Adult height or near adult height of female and male artistic gymnasts is not compromised by intensive gymnastics training. (2) Gymnastics training does not appear to attenuate growth of upper (sitting height) or lower (legs) body segment lengths. (3) Gymnastics training does not appear to attenuate pubertal growth and maturation, neither rate of growth nor the timing and tempo of the growth spurt. (4) Available data are inadequate to address the issue of intensive gymnastics training and alterations within the endocrine system.

PMID:
23743792
PMCID:
PMC3751410
DOI:
10.1007/s40279-013-0058-5
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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