You may wonder by the fact that most of the gymnasts participating in Olympics or Commonwealth are short in height.
Many parents ask whether their kids will remain short if they learn gymnastics. In fact, the average height of female gymnasts is said to be 5 feet 1 inch.
As per observation, around 78% of gymnasts who have achieved the level of champions are usually 3 inches below or above 5 feet.
Do you know what is Simone Biles’s height?
She stands tall at 4 feet 8 inches.
The other four world-famous Olympions are Aly Raisman who is 5 feet 2 inches, Madison Kocian who is 5 feet 2 inches, Gabby Douglas who is 4 feet 11 inches, and, Laurie Hernandez who is 5 feet.
Added, 16-year-old Brazilian gymnast named Flavia Lope Saraiva is only 4’4’’.
Does gymnastics play a key role in stunting growth?
The straight answer is a ‘No’. A study titled ‘Role of Intensive Training in the Growth and Maturation of Artistic Gymnasts’ is done in 2013. It got published in the prestigious U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine. It said that gymnastics training has no role in reducing pubertal growth and maturation.
Again, intensive training of gymnastics does not play any role in compromising near adult or adult height of females and males both during young age and puberty.
The length of upper and lower body does not get affected by gymnastics.
What are the actual reasons behind the short height of gymnasts?
The main reason is the sport’s nature itself. There are certain requirements in Gymnastics. Athletes need to fling in between multiple bars, do flips, hold various complicated positions, etc.
Hence, there is a possibility that this particular sport asks for short people. Taller athletes may face difficulties in doing specific moves that short athletes can easily execute.
There is another possible explanation. It is the diet followed by gymnasts. The diet is designed to keep the athletes small and not weighty.
Many gymnasts don’t follow a strict diet and tend to eat less or more resulting in the deficiency of calcium, Vitamin D, calories, etc.
However, arguments are there connecting high intensity training and delayed physical growth. According to some, young athletes undergoing intensive gymnastics training can suffer from injuries resulting in a halt in growing bones and plates.
Additionally, there was a study that got published in the year 2004. It showed that highly intense training of gymnastics can lay influence on musculoskeletal growth as well as maturation.
Again, there are some critics who found zero effect of gymnastics on growth of upper and lower body.
But, according to another research, many gymnasts experience the onset of puberty or their first period later that other average adolescents.
There are certain proofs. Any effect of gymnastics on an athlete’s growth and maturation is known to get reversed if that particular person stops practicing high intensity training into adulthood.
Moreover, any possible effects on growth do not likely occur in recreational gymnasts. A study reveals that young women gymnasts who practice rigorously and gravitate to the specific sport usually tend to have short height.
Many taller players leave gymnastics. However, it is still not clear if the taller gymnasts leave the sport by themselves as they find it extremely difficult to continue the high level of training.
Experts say that gymnastics is not only for short people. There are some top level competitors who are quite tall. For example, Georgia Rose Brown, an Australian gymnast is 5 feet 8 inches tall.
What are the opinions of experts?
A famous physiologist named Dr. Kevin Thomson wrote about gymnasts’ physical qualities. It was for BBC. According to him, short height of gymnasts helps them in rotational skills like somersaults.
There is a professor named Dr. Robert M. Malina from Kinesiology department at the University of Texas located at Austin. He opined that majority of gymnasts have short height because their parents are short.
According to a study done in the year 2000 and published in the popular ‘Journal of Pediatrics’, the specific sport that is gymnastics involve short women.
Added, they possess delayed bone age indicating that their skeletal maturation is lower than their actual age. Hence, it can be said that gymnastics can lay an impact on a person’s growth.
Another study has been done on 83 female gymnasts who are active, 42 retired gymnasts, and 154 non gymnasts who are completely healthy.
The finding revealed that active gymnasts have shown deficits in sitting height and leg length. But, the deficits are not permanent. The gymnasts, after attaining late teens and early twenties grow normally.
It can be said that intense training in gymnastics may delay the beginning of menstruation.
Gymnasts can be at risk of amenorrhea induced by hardcore exercise. But, it is quite fortunate that The Journal of Pediatrics discovered that gymnasts do not apparently experience menstrual dysfunction because of training.
So, it can be concluded that there is no fixed evidence of gymnastics’ impact on height provided the diet and health of the athletes continue to be normal and up to the mark.