Annals of Human Biology vol:30 issue:2 pages:148-59
BACKGROUND: Within the context of the effects of training for sports on growth and maturation, there is very little menarcheal data for elite rowing athletes. Knowledge of the relationship of the maturational status with training level, different boat categories, and somatic features of the athletes will clarify the assumed impact of rowing training on the growth and maturational process of youngsters. AIM: The aim of this study was to determine the age at menarche in world top junior rowing athletes and to investigate its relationship with anthropometric characteristics, and competition level, rowing style and boat category. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: The sample consisted of 212 female junior rowers, with a mean chronological age of 17.6 +/- 0.8 years, all participants at the 1997 FISA World Junior Rowing Championships. Anthropometric dimensions, somatotype and body composition characteristics were measured, and age at menarche and training data were retrospectively obtained by questionnaires. RESULTS: Results revealed that the mean age at menarche of the total group of rowers was 12.8 +/- 1.2 years and did not differ from a non-athletic reference population. Rowers who started their rowing training before menarche (n = 78) showed a significant (p </= 0.01) later age at menarche compared with rowers who started their training after menarche (n = 134), with mean ages of 13.4 and 12.4 years, respectively. No significant relationship between the age at menarche and physical and body composition characteristics could be demonstrated, with r varying between -0.11 and 0.11. Furthermore, no significant differences in ages at menarche between competition levels (finalists versus non-finalists/medallists versus non-medallists) and between the different boat categories could be observed. CONCLUSIONS: Based on the results of this study, there is no direct evidence to state that intensive rowing training has a negative influence on the maturation status of junior female athletes.