The second to fourth-digit-ratio (2D:4D), a putative marker of prenatal androgen action and a sexually dimorphic trait, has been suggested to be related with sports performance, although results are not univocal. If this relation exists, it is most likely to be detected by comparing extreme groups on the continuum of sports performance.
In this study the 2D:4D ratio of world-class elite female artistic gymnasts (n = 129), competing at the 1987 Rotterdam World-Championships was compared to the 2D:4D ratio of sedentary age-matched sedentary girls (n = 129), alongside with other anthropometric characteristics including other sexually dimorphic traits such as an androgyny index (Bayer & Bayley) and Heath-Carter somatotype components (endomorphy, mesomorphy, ectomorphy) using AN(C)OVA. 2D:4D was measured on X-rays of the left hand.
Left hand 2D:4D digit ratio in world class elite female gymnasts (0.921±0.020) did not differ significantly from 2D:4D in age-matched sedentary girls (0.924±0.018), either with or without inclusion of potentially confounding covariates such as skeletal age, height, weight, somatotype components or androgyny index. Height (161.9±6.4 cm vs 155.4±6.6 cm p<0.01), weight (53.9±7.6 kg vs 46.2 6.3 kg p<0.01), BMI (20.51±2.41 kg/m(2) vs 19.05±1.56 kg/m(2)), skeletal age (15.2±1.1 y vs 14.5±1.2 y p>0.01), somatotype components (4.0/3.0/2.9 vs 1.7/3.7/3.2 for endomorphy (p<0.01), mesomorphy (p<0.01) and ectomorphy (p<0.05) respectively) all differed significantly between sedentary girls and elite gymnasts. As expressed by the androgyny index, gymnasts have, on average, broader shoulders relative to their hips, compared to the reference sample. Correlations between the 2D:4D ratio and chronological age, skeletal age, and the anthropometric characteristics are low and not significant.
Although other anthropometric characteristics of sexual dimorphism were significantly different between the two samples, the present study cannot discriminate sedentary girls from world-class female gymnasts by means of the left hand 2D:4D ratio.