Maturity-associated variation in the body size and proportions of elite female gymnasts 14-17 years of age

Eur J Pediatr. 2006 Mar;165(3):186-92. doi: 10.1007/s00431-005-0017-8. Epub 2005 Dec 13.


The aim of this study was to evaluate variations in the size and body proportions of elite female gymnasts associated with individual differences in maturity status. The subjects were 150 gymnasts, 14.0-17.9 years of age, who had participated in the 24th World Championship in Artistic Gymnastics, Rotterdam. Height, body mass, sitting height and biacromial and bicristal breadths were measured. Leg length was estimated as the height minus sitting height, and the ratio of sitting height to height was calculated. Information on menarcheal status was obtained by means of a questionnaire, and hand-wrist radiographs were taken to assess skeletal maturity status. For the purpose of data analysis the gymnasts were divided into three maturity groups within each single-year chronological age (CA) group from 14 to 17 years: pre-menarcheal (n=65); post-menarcheal but not skeletally mature (SA<16.0 years, n=37); post-menarcheal, skeletally mature (n=48). Differences among the groups were tested with analysis of variance and post hoc Tukey tests. The results showed that pre-menarcheal gymnasts are smaller in all dimensions compared to post-menarcheal gymnasts in all age groups but that the significance of differences varies. Post-menarcheal, skeletally mature gymnasts are heavier than pre-menarcheal gymnasts, but weight does not differ between gymnasts in the two post-menarcheal groups (with one exception, 16 years). Post-menarcheal, skeletally mature gymnasts have proportionally shorter legs than gymnasts in the other two maturity categories. Elite gymnasts of contrasting maturity status show similar trends in body size and proportions similar to those of non-athlete adolescent girls of contrasting maturity status. The results highlight the need to consider maturity-associated variation in the body dimensions of gymnasts before attributing their characteristics to the demands of regular training.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Size / physiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Gymnastics*
  • Humans
  • Menarche
  • Somatotypes