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Biological maturation of youth athletes: assessment and implications
  1. Robert M Malina1,2,
  2. Alan D Rogol3,
  3. Sean P Cumming4,
  4. Manuel J Coelho e Silva5,
  5. Antonio J Figueiredo5
  1. 1Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, USA
  2. 2Tarleton State University, Stephenville, Texas, USA
  3. 3University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
  4. 4Department of Health, Health and Exercise Science Research Group, University of Bath, Bath, UK
  5. 5Faculty of Sport Science and Physical Education, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal
  1. Correspondence to Professor Robert M Malina, 10735 FM 2668, Bay City, Texas 77414, USA; rmalina{at}


The search for talent is pervasive in youth sports. Selection/exclusion in many sports follows a maturity-related gradient largely during the interval of puberty and growth spurt. As such, there is emphasis on methods for assessing maturation. Commonly used methods for assessing status (skeletal age, secondary sex characteristics) and estimating timing (ages at peak height velocity (PHV) and menarche) in youth athletes and two relatively recent anthropometric (non-invasive) methods (status—percentage of predicted near adult height attained at observation, timing—predicted maturity offset/age at PHV) are described and evaluated. The latter methods need further validation with athletes. Currently available data on the maturity status and timing of youth athletes are subsequently summarised. Selection for sport and potential maturity-related correlates are then discussed in the context of talent development and associated models. Talent development from novice to elite is superimposed on a constantly changing base—the processes of physical growth, biological maturation and behavioural development, which occur simultaneously and interact with each other. The processes which are highly individualised also interact with the demands of a sport per se and with involved adults (coaches, trainers, administrators, parents/guardians).

  • Adolescent
  • Athlete
  • Children
  • Growth
  • Maturation

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