The purpose of this study was to compare different methods of maturity evaluation and their relation with per- formance-related physical and anthropometric variables in young soccer players, with different plasma zinc status. A total of 53 healthy male young soccer players (age: 13±1 years; body mass: 48±10 kg; stature: 160±10 cm) participated in this study. Variables from physical fitness (stature, ST; fat-free mass, FFM; handgrip strength in the dominant hand, DHS), testosterone and zinc plasma concentration were measured. Biological maturity was evaluated by sexual maturity (development of: pubic hair, PH; genitals, GD; axillary hair; AH), bone maturity (TW3 method; BA), and testosterone plasma concentration methods. We observed that: (i) the frequency of hypozincemics and normozincemics children stratified by BA-CA, PH and GD were similar in each category; (ii) the BA allowed the identification of differences between the three categories, in at least two performance-related variables (FFM and DHS, p<0.0001); (iii) the AH method was able to discriminate only for DHS (p<0.0001); and (iv) the testosterone method was not able to identify differences between the four maturation categories with regard to ST, FFM, and DHS. Results suggested that Zinc deficiency did not influence the results obtained for the maturation categories defined by the different assessment methods. The assessment of biological maturation by BA seems to be the most effective for the stratification of performance-related and anthropometric variables in young soccer players. Nevertheless, the AH method should also be considered as a fair option to be used in field studies and practice.
KEY WORDS: Puberty; Testosterone; Sports; Biological maturation.