Growing awareness - your child's height
An endocrinologist puts your child's height into perspective
I find myself sometimes when off work slipping back into viewing things with the insight of a pediatric endocrinologist.
Lately, football has put a lot into perspective for me. Take a look at the two starting quarterback for the Super Bowl between New England and Seattle.
New England’s Tom Brady seems to be the prototypical signal caller, standing at 6 feet, 4 inches tall.
On the other hand, Seattle Russell Wilson for the Seattle Seahawks is listed at 5’11.” New England wide receiver, Julian Edelman, who was the star of the Patriots’ victory over Baltimore is listed at 5’10,” which is the average U.S man’s height
Much like the children, we see at Cook Children’s, athletes come in all shapes and sizes.
Probably half of the children I treat are brought by families due to concerns about height. The reality of life is that people come in all heights, and height offers an opportunity to make assumptions and judgments about a person which can sometimes be hurtful.
Cincinnati Bengals Head Coach, Marvin Lewis, created a social media firestorm when he said this about the undersized quarterback for the Cleveland Browns and Heisman Trophy winner at Texas A&M, Johnny Manziel.
“You gotta go defend the offense. You don’t defend the player, particularly a midget.”
Lewis quickly apologized for his words as others including organizations like Little People of American explained to him how derogatory and offensive the term was especially to those with serious medical conditions causing their short stature.
The movie, “Rudy,” is a perfect example. It’s one of the most inspiring stories about a shorter man with a passion for football who overcame the odds. At 5’6”, Rudy Ruettiger wasn’t a typical defensive lineman for Notre Dame, but his hard work and dedication paid off with a chance to play.
My opinion is that it’s important to have the right perspective about height. A good attitude and acceptance of one’s height is important and a person shouldn’t make judgments about another solely on height.
Sometimes it’s something more than just genetics or the child being a “late bloomer,” it can be an endocrine disease and the child will need treatment for a condition such as hypothyroidism or growth hormone deficiency.
At times, we the child may have trouble coping with his or her size and may even need counseling.
In my area of expertise, it is a challenge to determine whether a child’s height is normal or not. There are times when height and growth are abnormal, and further investigation is needed:
Genetics: Shorter parents often times have shorter children. These kids continue to achieve milestones such as puberty or growth spurts at a normal rate, but they generally stay around the same height as their parents.
If a child is terribly uncomfortable with his or her height, we may talk to the family about counseling. If the child doesn’t reach puberty at the normal age, the discussion may include puberty hormone treatment. But, this needs to be decided with your endocrinologist or pediatrician.
Constitutional growth delay: These are often times what’s considered “late bloomers.” Children with condition are small for their age, but continue to grow at a normal rate. They usually reach puberty later than other children and experience delay in sexual maturity. They usually catch up with their classmates, but it sometimes takes them longer.
Endocrine conditions: We treat these children for hypothyroidism or growth hormone deficiency. These children require treatment from an endocrinologist and may need medication for growth.
Turner syndrome: This is a common genetic condition occurring in 1 in every 2,500 girls born. It is caused by missing all or a portion of one of the X chromosomes. The condition varies in severity but has physical and psycho-educational impacts.
Care of girls with Turner syndrome is an integral part of the practice of the pediatric endocrine group at Cook Children’s. The majority of girls affected will have short stature and early failure of the ovaries. Growth hormone treatment is prescribed and monitored by pediatric endocrinologists to treat short stature. The task of monitoring puberty and timing of estrogen replacement is equally important to insure overall health.
In the coming weeks, I’ll give more facts on children’s growth and talk when a parent should be concerned about their child’s growth.
As a self-described ‘techie,’ Joel Steelman, M.D., has a keen interest in the wise use of technology to improve medical care. Since 2001, he has helped implement electronic medical recordkeeping in two endocrine practices.