Background: The effects of systematic sports training during childhood and adolescence on subsequent growth and sexual maturation remains in dispute.
Aim: The study aimed to determine whether moderate-high volumes of dance training adversely influence linear growth and sexual maturation of young girls progressing through puberty.
Subjects and methods: This 3-year mixed longitudinal study comprised 82 novice dancers and 61 controls, aged 8-11 years at baseline, who were assessed bi-annually for 3 consecutive years. A biological maturational age was determined by estimating attainment of age at peak height velocity (PHV). Body dimensions were measured by anthropometry, and exercise levels, nutritional intake and age at menarche by questionnaires.
Results: Controls had significantly greater unadjusted height velocity than dancers 1 year before PHV, however there was no difference between groups in age of attainment of PHV. When controlling for maturation, lean mass, fat mass and extracurricular sport (excluding dancing), there were no group differences in absolute growth or velocity of growth in height, sitting height or leg length. Within the dancers there were no effects of years of dancing (>6.5 years) or weekly dance hours (>7 h per week) on growth velocities. No association was found between age at menarche and years or hours of dance training.
Conclusion: Results suggest that moderate-high levels of dance training do not affect linear growth and maturation. Thus, girls should not be discouraged from dance participation on the basis of potential growth delays.