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      Puberty

What is puberty?

        Puberty is the period during which growing boys or girls undergo the process of sexual maturation. Puberty involves a series of physical stages or steps that lead to the achievement of fertility and the development of the so-called secondary sex characteristics, the physical features associated with adult males and females (such as the growth of pubic hair). While puberty involves a series of biological, or physical, transformations, the process can also have an effect on the psychosocial and emotional development of the adolescent.  For more information visit Puberty Stages of Boys and Girls.

Delayed Puberty
        Delayed Puberty is when a boy or girl is beyond the normal age range for puberty to have commenced, yet their body has not shown any signs of the associated body changes. 

        Physical development starts at different times and progresses at different rates in different people. So, the beginning of the development that comes with puberty varies from person to person — and that's completely normal.

       The earliest physical change of puberty for girls is usually breast development, which most often begins around 10 or 11 years. But it's perfectly normal for breast development to start anytime between the ages of 8 and 13. A girl's first menstrual period usually occurs about 2 to 2½ years after breast development begins.

       Boys begin their development on average around age 11 or 12, but it's also normal to begin anytime between the ages of 9 and 15. Girls and guys who start developing earlier or later than these ranges can still be normal, but they should be checked by their doctor just to be sure.

       For both boys and girls, it usually takes several years after the first changes of puberty begin before they're all complete — and there's a lot of variation from person to person. So, two normally developing guys or girls who are the same age can appear quite different from each other. One can look older and more physically mature than the other. But the one who started later will catch up in time.

 
       Girls who are extremely active in sports may experience a delay of a year or more in the start of puberty. Read more about this topic in Girl Wants to Delay Puberty.

Gymnastics: Why do gymnasts have stunted growth?
       Olympic-level gymnasts are often extremely short and (for women) have severely delayed puberty.  The men are also often very short (though typically older), and in general something about high-level gymnastics seems to stunt the height growth of its practitioners. Even at amateur levels this seems to be true. They are very muscular and powerful, but short.  Yet this doesn't happen to athletes in other sports.  What's different about gymnastics that causes this?

       Is this caused by coaches selecting young athletes who seem to have specific traits and the parents seem to both have the desired physical traits.  Olympic level figure skaters and  gymnasts typically begins intense years of training before the normal start of puberty.

Low body fat is not unique to gymnastics, but low body fat together with young
age of training can induce a delay in puberty that can affect adult height.

      
Recommended Reading: 

References:

Growth, pubertal development, skeletal maturation ...
The genetic potentials for growth can be fully expressed only under favorable ... stage and delay pubertal development and menarche in a variety of sports.

PDF Growth and pubertal development in children training and competition for some sports, and in concert with the self-selection ..... pubertal delay or secondary amenorrhea can lead to low bone mineral density.

A List Of Exercises That Stunt Children's Growth May 13, 2011 Moderate physical activity among children is beneficial for growth. In fact, exercise in childhood is critical for maximizing bone growth and preventing osteoporosis in later years. However, when exercise levels increase to vigorous and extreme levels for prolonged periods of time, negative growth effects may occur. Children who engage in sports with an emphasis on caloric restriction and high energy expenditure are at the greatest risk for retarded growth. According to Estherann Grace, pediatrician at Children's Hospital Boston, inadequate nutrition during the prepubescent stage will delay puberty and stunt growth.

Resources:

The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Effect Of Puberty on Adolescents
Talk About Puberty
Teenage Athletes & Puberty
PDF  Puberty
PDF  What Happens During Puberty
PDF  Puberty Information Resources
PDF  Puberty & Sports in Female Adolescents
PDF  Female Gymnasts: Training & Growth

All materials are copy protected. 

The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.


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