The Boys' Growing Up in the Lord

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Question

Hey! I just turned 17 years old and I am 5 ft 5 in which is short. My mum is 5 ft and dad is 5 ft 9 in. I was wondering if I could go to a doctor and use growth hormone treatments, such as one called genotropin. Would it work for me? I would have to travel a long distance to go to America to do the treatments. Could it give me a few inches of growth or will it not work? OK thanks!


Answer

Growth hormones can only work while the growth plates on the bones are "open" or active. Growth plates are patches from which new bone is developed. The plates start closing down in stage 4 of development and are completely closed at stage 5. Once closed they cannot be reopened.

Most 17 year olds are in stage 4 or stage 5. It would be too late to give growth hormones and expect them to cause any changes in height. If you are a late bloomer and still are growing there is a possibility. When growth hormones are used legitimately by doctors, they are usually given when the child is still in stage 1 or stage 2. Typically it is because a child is unusually small for their age, with tests confirming that they are deficient in growth hormones, and the hope is that the growth hormones will restore them to a height somewhat close to their peers.

Growth hormones are extremely expensive and so they attract numerous con men who make all sorts of claims. Most involve claims of making a person look younger or gain more muscles. But these same cons will prey on young people desperate to gain a few more inches of height. Of course, by the time you figure out that the hormones didn't do a thing for you, they will be long gone with your money. But the way, unless you are seeing someone literally world renown in endocrinology (the study of hormones) or because your doctor recommended a particular doctor, having to go to another country for treatment should be a warning flag. Crossing country borders makes it hard to do something when a claim doesn't work as promised.

If you want a quick check to see where you are in development, you can use the Tanner Stage Calculator for Boys. This only gives an estimate and is only as good as the information given to it. If you want to know for sure whether there is any potential left for growth, you can see your doctor for a bone age x-ray.

But even if the test shows you have the potential to grow more, you need to also have a test to see if you are deficient in growth hormone. What many people neglect to mention is that growth hormones can help a person who deficient in them grow faster. There isn't any proof that having more than you need to grow will cause further growth. Your body is self-regulating and if it sees plenty of growth hormones in the blood, the glands producing the growth hormones cut back their production.

Growth hormones also contain risks. Studies have noted that people who take growth hormones have an unexpected higher rate of strokes and it has been noted that they tend to die at a younger age. See: Weighing Growth Hormones for Short Kids.

Now, after all this bad news, let's talk a moment about typical human growth. It has long been noted that most children grow to a height based on the average of their parent's height. The average of your parent's height is 5 foot 4.5 inches. For a boy, that serves as the minimum to which you will grow and there is potential to grow up to 10 inches above it depending on your gene combinations. Notice, then, that your height of 5 foot 5 inches is within that potential range. Therefore, even though you are on the shorter end of the range, you are still normal.

The best thing that you can do is find contentment in being who you are. No, you may not be great basketball player material -- or perhaps you could play forward and cause all sorts of trouble for those giants who can't reach so low for the ball. But short doesn't stop a man from doing almost anything he desires and it some cases it can be an advantage (spelunking anyone?). Turn it into a point of fun. I have a brother who because of genetic disease is almost totally blind. In the early days he was upset about it. Now he uses it for jokes. "You're so bad at chess even a blind man can beat you!" My point is that life is mostly about what you make of it, not the actual hand you were dealt.