Erlandson, M. C., Sherar, L. B., Mirwald, R. L., Maffulli, N., & Baster-Jones, A. D. (2008). Growth and maturation of adolescent female gymnasts, swimmers, and tennis players. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 40, 34-42.

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"Intensive training at a young age may adversely affect the growth and sexual maturation of female athletes, resulting in compromised adult stature". This study compared the somatic growth, sexual maturation, and final adult height of elite adolescent female athletes. Serial measures of height, sitting height, and breast and pubic hair development were taken on female gymnasts (N = 81), swimmers (N = 60), and tennis players (N = 81) between 8 and 19 years of age. Menarcheal age, parental heights, maternal menarcheal age, and number of training hours were recorded. Final adult heights were obtained from a subsample of the athletes (N = 110).

Gymnasts were significantly shorter than tennis players and swimmers at all chronological ages during adolescence, and attained menarche at an older age. No significant differences were found in adult heights. During adolescence, no differences were found in standing height to sitting height ratios, leg length to standing height ratios, or sitting height to leg length ratios between sports.

Implication. Regular training does not affect final adult female stature and when aligned by biological age, the rate of sexual maturation was similar in these young athletes.

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