Height in gymnastics

Discussion in 'Question & Answer' started by 10.0, Feb 21, 2011.

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  1. 10.0

    10.0 New Member

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    I know there is a lot of debate on this and I have my own thoughts but I am wondering what others think. I have been watching a lot of college gymnastics lately and notice almost all of the gymnasts are very short for being adult age.

    Do you think this is due in some way to all the athletic activity actually stunting their grown? Or that as gymnasts become higher levels the shorter ones tend to succeed more so that is what we end up seeing more of? Also when these athletes retire either college or elite level do many of them have late growth spurts?

    I think it is even stranger now days as people in general seem to be getting taller, I know the short little girl gymnast body was popular in years past and now more body types are accepted but why are all these college women so short?

  2. superflipgirl

    superflipgirl New Member Gymnast

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    I think that higher level gymnasts tend to be shorter, because training longer somehow affects when you hit your growth spurt(I'm not exactly sure about this, but I've heard stories similar to it). My first year on team was when I was 11, and before that I barely was training more than once a week. I hit my growth spurt a little bit late, sometime between 7th and 8th grade, and I grew A LOT. I was about 4'11" at the beginning of 7th grade and now as a high school freshman, I'm 5'4" and the second tallest person on my club team. That's just what I think, but it sounds like that's what happens.
  3. Bobby

    Bobby Guest

    I know the Australian Institute of Sport (Canberra) did a long term study on one of the earliest cohorts of elite gymnasts through their program which found that elite gymnasts did in fact eventually reach their predicted full adult height (based on family histry) and other aspects of growth and maturity.
    In other words it supported the idea that gymnastics doesn't make them short any more than basketball makes them tall.
    But it may have slightly alowed down growth and extended the age at which they reached full height, menarche, etc.
    PS: I think it was published around the early 90s?
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 21, 2011
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  4. cher062

    cher062 Guest

    I think its genitcs in play. Lets face it the shorter gymnasts tend to do better and move to the higher levels. sort of like those who play basketball are tall, those who play football are large, etc. Gymnastics is a sport that tends to attract shorter folks.

  5. CoachGoofy

    CoachGoofy Moderator/Coach Coach CB Booster

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    I'm pretty sure it's genetics. Kids who will be shorter are often steered to gymnastics, & the taller girls often hit their ceiling in abilities (or skills they can learn with the available equipment & spotters) at a lower level than kids who stay tiny longer.

    Gymnastics didn't make me short (5'3") any more than basketball made my sister tall (6'1"). I just had way more success in one, and she had way more success in the other.
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  6. dunno

    dunno Coach Coach Proud Parent Former Gymnast CB Booster Club Owner

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    that's right ^^^ CoachGoofy.

    it's anthropological. if your 5 year old child is 5 feet tall...you don't think to put them in gymnastics. and if your 5 year old is 3 feet tall you put them in gymnastics. yet ALL children regardless of anthropometric measurements should participate in gymnastics for an athletic foundation. gymnastics is the ONLY activity that trains and stresses the ENTIRE body. gymnastics is to the body what 'activia' or good bacteria is to the stomach/digestion.

    gymnastics DOES NOT stunt your growth. and in fact, all orthopaedic/research studies have shown that we/gymnasts have the best bones out there.

    gymnastics DOES NOT cause eating disorders. and in fact, we/gymnasts have the lowest percentage of ALL sports.
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  7. MaryA

    MaryA Proud Parent/Moderator Proud Parent CB Booster

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    So, I get that gymnastics selects for shorter people and doesn't cause the shortness. But what is the tallest gymnast you've had at an upper level? There's a girl on my DD's team who is very tall for her age. She's only 9 now and is the same height as many of the middle school girls on the team, a full head above my 10-year-old DD. She is currently the "best" girl on the level 5 team... very lovely and graceful, consistantly getting skills first and scoring the highest at meets. But I have to think that she will probably end up being close to 6 feet tall. I wonder if there is a point where her height will catch up with her in terms of making gymnastics difficult for her?
  8. Tumblequeensmom

    Tumblequeensmom New Member Proud Parent

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    I remember the topic about the height of college gymnasts came up a few years ago. Several gym moms and I, along with our girls, attended a few college meets and we were really surprised by how tall some of the girls actually were. I just did a quick search of the universities around my state to check out the heights of the NCAA gymnasts and they really are all over the place!!! Among the three universities I checked, the tallest is actually 5'10" There are quite a few gymnasts in the 5'8", 5'7 and 5'6" range as well!! Most are about 5'5" and 5'4". And of course there are shorter ones at betwen 5 feet and 5'3". So the bottom line is, if the gymnast is really willing to work hard (and what level 10 girl does NOT work hard?), then height need not be a factor holding her back from being a successful NCAA gymnast!
  9. cher062

    cher062 Guest

    Well i think the tallest I've seen in person is about 5'5" and next to the 5' to 5'2" girls they look really tall but they really aren't tall.
  10. coachmolly

    coachmolly Coach Coach

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    Like others have said, it all comes down to a smaller body type being more likely to be put into gymnastics in the first place, but also more likely to succeed in the long run. But I don't think height is the biggest indicator of gymnastics success. There have been plenty of successful college gymnasts in the 5'8 range, I think a girl at Minnesota a few years ago was 5'10-5'11 and very pretty to watch. In terms of current gymnasts, Sarie Morrison at LSU has been getting some pretty awesome scores and winning all-around titles against tough teams and she's 5'9. Smaller girls with a muscular build are often those picked for future success, but there is always an exception. Taller girls often bring a totally different look and quality to their gymnastics, but there probably will be some limitations or challenges to work through if a girl reaches an exceptionally tall height.
    My brother was a competitive swimmer, a sport where athletes are known for their tall, slender builds and while he worked hard and was talented, the fact that he was only 5'10-5'11ish put him at a great disadvantage before he even jumped into the pool. He had plenty of great teammates who were on the shorter side as well, but it was often the combination of talent, proper training, and ideal build that led to great success at the top levels. Swimming doesn't make those kids tall, my brother certainly didn't gain any height from it, it just favors a certain body type and gymnastics is much the same.
  11. 10.0

    10.0 New Member

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    I completly understand that GYMNASTICS its self does not CAUSE stunted growth or eating disorders. I am curious though if the hard training, long hours, constant pounding may delay puberty causing teens to be shorter than they would have had they not trained so hard.

    Also I agree gymnastics does not cause eating disorders in a way that a loaded gun does not cause a murder a person pulling the trigger does. I do think eating disorders are more prevelent as the body is the focus of the sport. I believe eating disorders are still very prevelent in gymnastics but not quite as bad in years past when the sport put so much emphasis on weight.
  12. gymnastbeth

    gymnastbeth Moderator/Gymnast Gymnast CB Booster

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    I'm 5'5ish, maybe a little less and level 9. And honestly, it WAS harder to get some skills, like layouts. But for some things height helps, and, in the end, if you're willing to work hard, you can get to a high level.
    And I LOVE the basketball response to "Doesn't gymnastics stunt your growth?" "Yea, and basketball makes you taller."
  13. bpatient

    bpatient Guest

    research results

    This subject has been thoroughly studied, but with somewhat conflicting results. happyfacegrin mentioned an Australian study that suggested that gymnasts attain their predicted adult height following delayed puberty; the first link below is to the abstract of that paper. However, a group in Greece has for years studied participants in the European and World Gymnastics Championships; in a paper from last fall (the second link), those scientists extend and confirm their earlier observations (the third through fifth links are to the full text of earlier articles which are available free on-line): the general trend among these elite athletes was for delayed onset of puberty and some deterioration in growth potential, with a deficit in (actual versus predicted) adult height that is greater for male than for female artistic gymnasts. These similar but slightly conflicting results are not surprising, since the study populations are not directly comparable: the Australians study included some athletes who had trained for less than two years, while the hundreds of participants in the World and European Gymnastics Championships who were studied over the years by the Greek group had all trained long hours for many years. The take-home lesson seems to be that female gymnasts who train long hours for years tend to mature later than their mothers, their sisters who are not gymnasts, and their untrained peers, and they tend to ultimately reach or to nearly reach their predicted adult height.

    Short stature and delayed puberty in gymnasts: inf... [J Pediatr. 2000] - PubMed result

    The influence of intensive physical training on gr... [Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010] - PubMed result

    Hormones.gr - Growth, pubertal development, skeletal maturation and bone mass acquisition in athletes

    Delayed but Normally Progressed Puberty Is More Pronounced in Artistic Compared with Rhythmic Elite Gymnasts Due to the Intensity of Training -- Theodoropoulou et al. 90 (11): 6022 -- Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism

    Growth Retardation in Artistic Compared with Rhythmic Elite Female Gymnasts -- Georgopoulos et al. 87 (7): 3169 -- Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism

    BTW, the Sacramento State NCAA (Division 1) women's gymnastics team included an athlete a couple of years ago who was listed on the roster as 5 feet 10 inches tall.
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  14. CoachGoofy

    CoachGoofy Moderator/Coach Coach CB Booster

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    My 6'1" baby sister got L5 on artistic (bars didn't work for her--she was too tall to tap swing, it was very frustrating for her) and L6 pushing 7 equivalent in T&T.

    And I know a T&Ter (female) who's 5'10"ish, level 9. And have met a whole lot more who are taller than me, at least. T&T is more forgiving than artistic in terms of different body sizes.
  15. emorymom

    emorymom New Member Proud Parent

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    Going into puberty early is what stunts growth. Puberty puts a cap on growth.

    I definitely think the parents of the kids who are shorter may tend to be more committed to gym than the parents of kids who could excell in any of a number of sports. Also I think the physics of it is going to mean the bigger you are the more extreme the forces are on the body.
  16. Mack_the_Ripper

    Mack_the_Ripper New Member

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    I do remember doing a report on this and some other topics last year for school...basically we've got a correlation between shortness and gymnastics but we don't know which causes which or if both are affected by a third factor. One thing that supports the hypothesis that long hours of gymnastic training at a young age stunts growth is the stories of elite gymnasts who grew several inches when in their twenties after quitting, suggesting that they reached their full adult height only after gymnastics training (and diet restriction that went along with it in those days) was ceased.

    This has some info: Female Gymnasts: does their training reduce growth rates, delay maturation and increase the risk of long-term skeletal injury? | Sports Injury Bulletin
  17. Bobby

    Bobby Guest

    I think there's a very important difference in "delaying" growth and "stunting" growth.
    Stunted growth would be of concern to me. Delayed growth is not.
    PS: I personally grew over 10 cm in the year after I retired so I do get this happens - I just don't consider it particularly important.
  18. gymdog

    gymdog Coach Coach Proud Relative Former Gymnast

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    I agree with most of your post. And the first part of this statement. Disordered eating can be complex, and when it reaches the extent of a specific diagnoses, 1000x more complex. It's more likely in any case that occurences are related to multiple factors including predisposition. I've seen the second claim before, but my anecdotal experience just doesn't match up. Of all sports? Maybe of some sports...I'm appalled by the behavior that passes as acceptable in some places in say, wrestling. I don't know what studies are saying this, but in reality I'm just not seeing that.

    Basically, I think it would be a bad idea to get complacent. And I know far more girls who struggled silently with self destructive behaviors. By all accounts I'm a success - I graduated early from a competitive university. I am mostly capable, and I do what I have to. I have mostly managed to remain functional, and to hide the less functional episodes from all but critical people. But, some people, perhaps sensing this or I don't know what, have opened up to me, and that has been somewhat unexpected at times too. Mostly though, people have made the same comments about me for a long time - that I "have everything together", that I'm "mature" etc. The bottom line is I'm guessing there's more going on below the surface of a lot of the intense personalities that are drawn to gymnastics. It would be difficult to get an accurate measure of that, I think. Self reported data is often skewed...people don't recognize *their* behavior as a problem, or they are in denial and won't accurately report things. Even treatment statistics would be a very difficult thing to gauge. I suppose, for instance, that you could ask an NCAA program support team member, who works with all sports. But on the basis of relatively limited interaction, I am fairly sure that I, for instance, could superficially convince such a person that I am well adjusted too. I have done that with people who have worked closely with me since I was a small child.

    As far as gymnastics stunting growth, this is far from the list of things I would even be concerned about. No one needs to worry about this...not even on the radar.

    Edit: also, while I'm not claiming to spend a great deal of time researching this, I have seen studies which do show that little girls - I'm talking under 10, involved in gymnastics, skating, and ballet do exhibit an increased awareness over weight and body issues. This isn't measuring eating disorders, but fairly innocent attitudes early on. Personally I find this to be of utmost concern and I do everything in my power to avoid ever sending negative messages. I don't think any coach should ever comment on body type in front of a child, ever. Of course I have said to other coaches, that one has the ideal body type, etc. But never, ever, in front of ANY children. And I never make comments about my own body, and I shut down any idle chatter about these things that is negative, modelling more appropriate patterns of thought and focus on what one's body can do.
  19. sally

    sally New Member Proud Parent

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    In every elite sport people that train that hard can have a delay in puberty not just gymnastics, and I know that it doesn't cause people to be short because of it. People are short in gymnastics because of their genes. I know plenty of people that had a delay in puberty in tennis and other sports and now they are 5f11 tall the reason why they were delayed was because of the body fat they had on them. They didn't have eating disorders it was just that they were very strong and lean with no fat.

    Eating disorders happens in everysport. My friend was australian champion and was told she was to fat and she wasn't going to get selected to represent australia because of it, Now I didn't do gymnastics this was another sport. She ended up having the start of an eating disorder luckly her parents got on top of it straight away, this was due to her being really upset that not only they told her this but in front of all of us. I think every parent needs to be aware of this problem as it does happen in any sport or with any person. This is a mental disorder that needs to caught very early.
  20. dunno

    dunno Coach Coach Proud Parent Former Gymnast CB Booster Club Owner

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    no and not true. the tallest girl i have coaches was 5' 9".
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