Body Size of Male Youth Soccer Players: 1978–2015



Studies of the body size and proportions of athletes have a long history. Comparisons of athletes within specific sports across time, though not extensive, indicate both positive and negative trends.


To evaluate secular variation in heights and weights of male youth soccer players reported in studies between 1978 and 2015.


Reported mean ages, heights, and weights of male soccer players 9–18 years of age were extracted from the literature and grouped into two intervals: 1978–99 and 2000–15. A third-order polynomial was fitted to the mean heights and weights across the age range for each interval, while the Preece–Baines model 1 was fitted to the grand means of mean heights and mean weights within each chronological year to estimate ages at peak height velocity and peak weight velocity for each time interval.


Third-order polynomials applied to all data points and estimates based on the Preece–Baines model applied to grand means for each age group provided similar fits. Both indicated secular changes in body size between the two intervals. Secular increases in height and weight between 1978–99 and 2000–15 were especially apparent between 13 and 16 years of age, but estimated ages at peak height velocity (13.01 and 12.91 years) and peak weight velocity (13.86 and 13.77 years) did not differ between the time intervals.


Although the body size of youth soccer players increased between 1978–99 and 2000–15, estimated ages at peak height velocity and peak weight velocity did not change. The increase in height and weight likely reflected improved health and nutritional conditions, in addition to the selectivity of soccer reflected in systematic selection and retention of players advanced in maturity status, and exclusion of late maturing players beginning at about 12–13 years of age. Enhanced training programs aimed at the development of strength and power are probably an additional factor contributing to secular increases in body weight.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. 1.

    Carter JEL, editor. Physical structure of Olympic athletes. Part II. Kinanthropometry of Olympic athletes. Basel: Karger; 1984.

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Malina RM. Anthropometry in physical education and sport sciences. In: Spencer F, editor. History of physical anthropology: an encyclopedia, vol. one. New York: Garland Publishing; 1997. p. 90–4.

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Malina RM. Growth and maturation of child and adolescent track and field athletes/Crescita e Maturazione di Bambini ed Adolescenti Praticanti Atletica Leggera (in both English and Italian). Rome: Centro Studi e Ricerche, Federazione Italiana di Atletica Leggera; 2006.

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Kunze D, Hughes PCR, Tanner JM. Anthropometrische untersuchungen an sportlern der XX. Olympischen 1972 in München. In: Jungmann H, editor. Sportwissenschaftliche Untersuchungen während der XX. Olympischen Spiele, München, 1972. Hamburg: Karl Demeter; 1976: p. 33–56.

  5. 5.

    Malina RM, Little BB, Bouchard C, et al. Growth status of Olympic athletes less than 18 years of age: young athletes at the Mexico City, Munich, and Montreal Olympic Games. In: Carter JEL, editor. Physical structure of Olympic athletes. Part II. Kinanthropometry of Olympic athletes. Basel: Karger; 1984. p. 183–201.

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Malina RM. Comparison of the increase in body size between 1899 and 1970 in a specially selected group with that in the general population. Am J Phys Anthropol. 1972;37:135–41.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Yamamoto JB, Yamamoto BE, Yamamoto PP, et al. Epidemiology of college athlete sizes, 1950s to current. Res Sports Med. 2008;16:111–27.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Wang MQ, Downey GS, Perko MA, et al. Changes in body size of elite high school football players: 1963–1989. Percept Motor Skills. 1993;76:379–83.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Malina RM. Growth and maturation of female gymnasts. Spotlight on youth sports, vol. 19, no. 3. East Lansing: Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, Michigan State University; 1996. p. 1–3.

  10. 10.

    Claessens AL. Elite female gymnasts: a kinanthropometric overview. In: Johnston FE, Zemel B, Eveleth PB, editors. Human growth in context. London: Smith-Gordon; 1999. p. 273–80.

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Claessens AL. Growth and maturity status of elite female gymnasts: state of the art. In: Starosta W, Jevtic B, editors. New ideas in fundamentals of human movement and sport science: current issues and perspectives (Proceedings of the 10th Sport Kinetics Conference). Belgrade: University of Belgrade, Faculty of Sport and Physical Education; 2009: p. 336–43.

  12. 12.

    Malina RM, Rogol AD. Sport training and the growth and pubertal maturation of young athletes. Pediatr Endocrinol Rev. 2011;9:441–55.

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Malina RM, Baxter-Jones ADG, Armstrong N, et al. Role of intensive training in the growth and maturation of artistic gymnasts. Sports Med. 2013;43:783–802.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Malina RM. Physical growth and biological maturation of young athletes. Exerc Sports Sci Rev. 1994;22:389–433.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Malina RM. Growth and maturity status of young soccer (football) players. In: Reilly T, Williams AM, editors. Science and soccer. 2nd ed. London: Routledge; 2003. p. 287–306.

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Malina RM, Coelho e Silva M, Figueiredo AJ. Growth and maturity status of youth players. In: Williams AM, editor. Science and soccer: developing elite performers. 3rd ed. Abington: Routledge; 2013. p. 307–32.

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Lukyanova RP, Novocelova NI. Physical development and physical preparation of young athletes in track and field, soccer and basketball. Teoriya i Praktika Fizicheskoy Kultury (Russia). 1964;6:38–41 (reprinted in Yessis Translation Review, 1967;2:18–22).

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Rebelo-Gonçalves R, Coelho-e-Silva M, Severino V, et al. Anthropometric and physiological profiling of youth soccer goalkeepers. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2015;10:224–31.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Deprez D, Fransen J, Boone J, et al. Characteristics of high-level youth soccer players: variation by playing position. J Sports Sci. 2015;33:243–54.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Kuczmarski RJ, Ogden CL, Grummer-Strawn LM, et al. CDC growth charts: United States. Advance data from vital and health statistics, no. 314. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2000.

  21. 21.

    Malina RM, Bouchard C, Bar-Or O. Growth, maturation, and physical activity. 2nd ed. Champaign: Human Kinetics; 2004.

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Ogden CL, Fryar CD, Carroll MD, et al. Mean body weight, height, and body mass index, United States 1962–2002. Advance data from vital and health statistics, no 347. Hyattsville: National Center for Health Statistics; 2004.

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    McDowell MA, Fryar CD, Ogden CL, et al. Anthropometric reference data for children and adults: United States, 2003–2006. National Health Statistics Reports, no 10. Hyattsville: National Center for Health Statistics; 2008.

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Preece MA, Baines MJ. A new family of mathematical models describing the human growth curve. Ann Hum Biol. 1978;5:1–24.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Hauspie RC, Roelarts M. Adolescent growth. In: Cameron N, Bogin B, editors. Human growth and development. 2nd ed. New York: Elsevier; 2012. p. 57–79.

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Beunen G, Thomis M, Maes HH, et al. Genetic variance of adolescent growth in stature. Ann Hum Biol. 2000;27:173–86.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Malina RM, Kozieł SM. Validation of maturity offset in a longitudinal sample of Polish boys. J Sports Sci. 2014;32:424–37.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Zemel BS, Johnston FE. Application of the Preece–Baines growth model to cross-sectional data: problems of validity and interpretation. Am J Hum Biol. 1994;6:563–70.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Malina RM, Peña Reyes ME, Tan SK, et al. Secular change in height, sitting height and leg length in rural Oaxaca, southern Mexico: 1968–2000. Ann Hum Biol. 2004;31:615–33.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Mirwald RL, Bailey DA, Rasmussen RL. Growth package utility program: growth plots (Growth-PB Model1.exe). Saskatoon: College of Physical Education, University of Saskatchewan; 2004.

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    StatSoft, Inc. Statistica (data analysis software system), Version 12, 2014. Accessed 3 Nov 2016.

  32. 32.

    Malina RM, Choh AC, Czerwinski SA, et al. Validation of maturity offset in the Fels longitudinal study. Pediatr Exerc Sci. 2016;28:439–55.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Malina RM. Skeletal age and age verification in youth sport. Sports Med. 2011;41:925–47.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Froberg K, Andersen B, Lammert O. Maximal oxygen uptake and respiratory functions during puberty in boy groups of different physical activity. In: Frenkl R, Szmodis I, editors. Children and exercise: pediatric work physiology XV. Budapest: National Institute for Health Promotion; 1991. p. 265–80.

    Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Bell W. Body size and shape: a longitudinal investigation of active and sedentary boys during adolescence. J Sports Sci. 1993;11:127–38.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Philippaerts RM, Vaeyens R, Janssens M, et al. The relationship between peak height velocity and physical performance in youth soccer players. J Sports Sci. 2006;24:221–30.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Malina RM, Rogol AD, Cumming SP, et al. Biological maturation of youth athletes: assessment and implications. Br J Sports Med. 2015;49:852–9.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Malina RM. The influence of physical activity and training on growth and maturation. In: Armstrong N, van Mechelen W, editors. Oxford textbook of children’s exercise science and medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2017. p. 441–54.

    Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Malina RM, Coelho-e-Silva MJ. Physical activity, growth and maturation of youth. In: Lukaski H, editor. Body composition: health and performance in exercise and sport. Boca Raton: CRC Press (Taylor and Francis Group); 2017. p. 69–88.

    Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Figueiredo AJ, Gonçalves CE, Coelho-e-Silva MJ, et al. Characteristics of youth soccer players who drop out, persist or move up. J Sports Sci. 2009;27:883–91.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Coelho-e-Silva MJ, Figueiredo AJ, Simões F, et al. Discrimination of U-14 soccer players by level and position. Int J Sports Med. 2010;31:790–6.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Huijgen BCH, Elferink-Gemser MT, Lemmink KAPM, et al. Multidimensional performance characteristics in selected and deselected talented soccer players. Eur J Sport Sci. 2014;14:2–10.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Malina RM. Assessment of biological maturation. In: Armstrong N, van Mechelen W, editors. Oxford textbook of children’s exercise science and medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2017. p. 3–11.

    Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Vrijens J, Pannier JL, Van Cauter C. Voetbal, groei en ontwikkeling. Werken van de Belgische Vereniging voor Sportgeneeskunde en Sportwetenschappen. 1981–1982;30:66–75.

  45. 45.

    Atomi Y, Fukunaga T, Yamamoto Y, et al. Lactate threshold and VO2 max of trained and untrained boys relative to muscle mass and composition. In: Rutenfranz J, Mocellin R, Klimt F, editors. Children and exercise XII. Champaign: Human Kinetics; 1986. p. 53–8.

    Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Satake T, Okajima Y, Atomi Y, et al. Effect of physical exercise on physical growth and maturation. J Phys Fit Jpn. 1986;35:104–10.

    Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Peña-Reyes ME, Cardenas-Barahona E, Malina RM. Growth, physique, and skeletal maturation of soccer players 7–17 years of age. Humanbiologia Budapestinensis. 1994;25:453–8.

    Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Feliú Rovira A, Albanell Pemán A, Bestit Cartasona C, et al. Predicción de la capacidad física de deportistas durante la pubertad: Análisis en futbolistas de alto rendimiento. An Esp Pediatr. 1991;35:323–6.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  49. 49.

    Hirose N. Relationships among birth-month distribution, skeletal age and anthropometric characteristics in adolescent elite soccer players. J Sports Sci. 2009;27:1159–66.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  50. 50.

    Carling C, Le Gall F, Malina RM. Body size, skeletal maturity, and functional characteristics of elite academy soccer players on entry between 1992 and 2003. J Sports Sci. 2012;30:1683–93.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  51. 51.

    Mazzanti L, Tassinari D, Bergamaschi R, et al. Hormonal, auxological and anthropometric aspects in young football players. In: Bierich JR, Cacciari E, Raiti S, editors. Growth abnormalities. New York: Raven Press; 1989. p. 363–9.

    Google Scholar 

  52. 52.

    Cacciari E, Mazzanti L, Tassinari D, et al. Effects of sport (football) on growth: auxological, anthropometric and hormonal aspects. Eur J Appl Physiol. 1990;61:149–58.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  53. 53.

    Hansen L, Klausen K, Bangsbo J, et al. Short longitudinal study of boys playing soccer: Parental height, birth weight and length, anthropometry, and pubertal maturation in elite and non-elite players. Pediatr Exerc Sci. 1999;11:199–207.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. 54.

    Bodzsár EB, Susanne C. Secular growth changes in Europe: do we observe similar trends? Considerations for future research. In: Bodzsar EB, Susanne C, editors. Secular growth changes in Europe. Budapest: Eötvös University Press; 1998. p. 369–81.

    Google Scholar 

  55. 55.

    Ong KK, Ahmed ML, Dunger DB. Lessons from large population studies on timing and tempo of puberty (secular trends and relation to body size): the European trend. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2006;254–255:8–12.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  56. 56.

    Gohlke B, Woelfle J. Growth and puberty in German children: is there still a secular trend? Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2009;106:377–82.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  57. 57.

    Kouchi M. Secular change and socioeconomic difference in height in Japan. Anthropol Sci. 1996;104:325–40.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. 58.

    Matsuoka H, Sato K, Sugihara S, et al. Bone maturation reflects the secular trend in growth. Hormone Res. 1999;52:125–30.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  59. 59.

    Roche AF, Sun S. Human growth: assessment and interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2003.

    Google Scholar 

  60. 60.

    Aksglaede L, Olsen LW, Sørensen TIA, et al. Forty years trends in timing of pubertal growth spurt in 157,000 Danish school children. PLoS One. 2008;3(7):e2728.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  61. 61.

    Ali MDA, Lestrel PE, Ohtsuki F. Secular trends for takeoff and maximum adolescent growth for eight decades of Japanese cohort data. Am J Hum Biol. 2000;12:702–12.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  62. 62.

    Cumming SP, Lloyd RS, Oliver JL, et al. Bio-banding in sport: applications to competition, talent identification, and strength and conditioning of youth athletes. Strength Cond J. 2017;39:34–47.

Download references


We greatly appreciate the assistance of Prof. Slawomir M. Kozieł of the Department of Anthropology, Hirszfeld Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy, Polish Academy of Sciences, Wrocław, Poland with the StatSoft modeling.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Robert M. Malina.

Ethics declarations


No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflicts of interest

Robert M. Malina, Antonio J. Figueiredo, and Manuel J. Coelho-e-Silva declare they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.

Ethics approval

This review was performed in accordance with ethical standards for research.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Table S1

Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 54 kb) Studies from which mean ages, heights, and weights of youth male soccer players were extracted

Fig. S1

Supplementary material 2 (TIFF 35 kb) Mean heights reported in studies of youth male soccer players between 1978 and 1999 (a) and between 2000 and 2015 (b) plotted by age relative to the medians and 25th and 75th percentiles of reference data for US boys [18]

Supplementary material 3 (TIFF 37 kb)

Fig S2

Supplementary material 4 (TIFF 34 kb) Mean weights reported in studies of youth male soccer players between 1978 and 1999 (a) and between 2000 and 2015 (b) plotted by age relative to the medians and 25th and 75th percentiles of reference data for US boys [18]

Supplementary material 5 (TIFF 36 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Malina, R.M., Figueiredo, A.J. & Coelho-e-Silva, M.J. Body Size of Male Youth Soccer Players: 1978–2015. Sports Med 47, 1983–1992 (2017).

Download citation


  • Soccer Player
  • Adult Height
  • Secular Change
  • Peak Height Velocity
  • American Football Player