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During the preschool years, physical growth, neurologic growth, and maturation are quite rapid and apparent, with new skills being acquired at a rapid pace. This process continues throughout the middle years with a somewhat slower pace. As the child enters puberty, rapid development of physical and sexual characteristics becomes more apparent, accompanied by important psychosocial development. The onset and rate of progression of pubertal events vary considerably among adolescents; however, the changes occur in a predetermined sequence.1,2 The adolescent may perceive sport experiences quite differently based on the influences of several variables: the differences in physical and psychosocial development, states of adolescent development (early: 10–13 years of age; middle: 14–16 years of age; and late: 16–20 years of age), as well as those who mature early or late.3–8 Also, gender differences become more apparent and significant for sport participation during adolescence (Figure 2-1). Clinically, it is important to assess an adolescent's sexual maturity rating (SMR) or Tanner staging (Figures 2-2, 2-3, and 2-4), because chronologic age does not necessarily correlate well with many physiologic and somatic changes. Skeletal maturity is best assessed by measurement of bone age.

Figure 2-1

Gender differences become more apparent and significant during progression from early to late adolescence and are most apparent in growth velocity and height as evident in these photographs of the brother and sister.

Figure 2-2

Maturational stages of female breast development.

Figure 2-3

Maturational stages of male and female pubic hair development.

Figure 2-4

Maturational stages of male genital development.

Selected aspects of somatic, sexual, and skeletal growth and maturation during adolescence (especially relevant to sport participation and performance) and their developmental continuity and inter-relatedness have been the subject of extensive review in the literature.1,2,4,9,10–22


In males, the average weight gain during its peak is approximately 9 kg/y with a range of 6 to 12.5 kg/y; in females it is approximately 8 kg/y with a range of 5.5 to 10.5 kg/y.1,19,21 In males, the peaks of growth spurts in height, weight, and muscle occur at the same time, while in females these occur in sequence in that order.2,16

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