Assessment of growth and maturation in humans has implications in the diagnosis and treatment of growth disorders and in determining timing of orthopaedic interventions.
Our aims were to investigate whether there was evidence of recent secular changes in stature and skeletal maturation in Australians, and to report any association between these parameters.
The cross-sectional study sample comprised 5,122 South Australian children and young adults, including 2,601 males and 2,521 females aged between 9 and 18 years. Records obtained from 1987 to 2005 included chronological age, stature and skeletal age in these individuals. Centiles for stature were calculated using the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) growth references published in 1975. Stature was measured to the nearest 0.1 cm and the developmental stages of strategic ossification centres on hand-wrist radiographs were evaluated using the Greulich and Pyle (1959) atlas method.
Average values for stature were consistently greater in the 1995-2005 cohort compared with the 1987-94 cohort for both sexes, although secular increases in females were less prominent compared with males. Males in the 1995-2005 cohort were also skeletally advanced when compared with their counterparts in the 1987-94 cohort, but this trend was not evident in females. There were significant associations between stature and skeletal maturation, with the strongest associations being noted around puberty in both sexes and progressively weaker associations in older age groups.
Our findings indicate secular increases in stature in Australian children and young adults of both sexes over the past few decades, and acceleration of skeletal maturation in males.