The Effects of Delayed Puberty on the Growth Plate


Butler, Tiffiny A.; Yingling, Vanessa R


Many athletes are beginning intense training before puberty, a time of increased bone accrual when up to 25% of total bone mineral accrual occurs. Female athletes experiencing late or delayed pubertal onset may have open epiphyseal plates that are vulnerable to injury. This investigation's purpose was to determine whether a delay in puberty (primary amenorrhea) affects the growth plate immediately postpuberty and at maturity. Forty-eight female Sprague-Dawley rats (23 d old) were randomly assigned to 4 groups (n=12); short-term control (C-ST), long-term control (C-LT), short-term GnRH antagonist (G-ST), and long-term GnRH antagonist (G-LT). At 25 days of age, daily gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonist (GnRH-a) injections were administered delaying pubertal onset. Left tibias were analyzed. Stained frontal slices of proximal tibia (5 µm thick) were analyzed in hypertrophic, proliferative, and reserve zones for total height, zone height, and cell/column counts. All procedures were approved by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at Brooklyn College. Growth plate height was 19.7% wider in delayed puberty (G-ST) group and at maturity was 27.9% greater in G-LT group compared with control (C-LT) (P<0.05). No significant differences were found in short-term or long-term growth plate zone heights or cell/column counts between groups (P>0.05). Growth plate zone height normalized to total height resulted in 28.7% larger reserve zone in the short-term GnRH-a group but the proliferative zone was 8.5% larger in the long-term group compared with the control group (P<0.05). Normalized to growth plate height a significant decrease was found in column counts in proliferative zones of the short-term and long-term GnRH-a groups. Current data illustrate that delayed puberty using GnRH-a injections results in significant growth plate height and decreases proliferative column counts and zone height, thus potentially contributing to decreases in bone mass at maturity. Growth plate height increases indicate increased potential for growth and bone accrual. However, previous models report decreased bone volume following delayed puberty via GnRH-a injections that may have detrimental effects in the long term.

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