This paper describes the effects of exercise training on the somatic, skeletal, and sexual maturation of children. Young athletes of both sexes grow at the same rate and to the same extent as young nonathletes. However, there is evidence that the pubertal development of young female athletes may be delayed. Menarche is more consistently late than either thelarche or pubarche. Genetic and environmental factors are explored in an attempt to determine causative mechanisms. Longitudinal training data are needed for both boys and girls on a variety of physical and hormonal variables. Until such data are available, it is recommended that all children engage in regular physical activity but that maturational progress be monitored in those involved in strenuous competitive training.
This paper was developed from a presentation at the 1989 annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Baltimore, in a symposium titled “Training Adaptations and Cautions in Pre- and Post-Pubescent Children” organized and chaired by Bo Fernhall.
Sharon Ann Plowman is with the Department of Physical Education, Anderson Hall, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115.