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    Skeletal maturation status is more strongly associated with academy selection than birth quarter

    Johnson, Amanda ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1648-6506, Farooq, Abdulaziz and Whiteley, Rod (2017) Skeletal maturation status is more strongly associated with academy selection than birth quarter. Science and Medicine in Football, 1 (2). pp. 157-163. ISSN 2473-3938

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    Introduction: Selection of younger athletes for advanced training in elite sport is assumed to be based on identification of innate talent. Previous researchers have identified relative age effects to influence these selection processes; however, maturation status and skeletal age effects, which have the potential to be a greater influence, have not been widely examined. Methods: Skeletal age (categorising athletes as: early maturing, on time, or late maturing via wrist and hand X-ray and Fels classification) and birth quarter are documented for 472 boys from Elite Youth football academies and compared to reference normative data to assess their effect on academy selection. Results: It is seen that maturation status has a much stronger influence–approximately 10-fold–on selection with a systematic over-representation of early maturing athletes in elite football academies, an effect that increases with age. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that athletes are being chosen in large by their maturation status, and as this relative benefit will have disappeared once all athletes are skeletally mature, this process is inadvertently excluding the majority of potential candidate athletes from this selection process. We suggest that consideration of maturation status of candidate athletes will result in a more equitable exposure to advanced training and the resultant performance benefits this incur.

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