It’s common knowledge that the average basketball player is tall, especially if they’ve hit the pros. Unless you’re someone like Spud Webb or Muggsy Bogues and contain a massive amount of playing power, you’ll probably struggle to measure up courtside if you come in under six feet tall.
So, what happens if you’re someone who’s got a passion for basketball but not the height for it? Does playing basketball enough actually force your body to stretch and grow, making you taller as you practice the subtler aspects of the sport? Read on to find out what the research says.
Is There Any Evidence That Basketball Makes You Taller?
My initial thoughts were that there’s no way on Earth that simply practicing a sport that requires extra height would give a person a few more inches. Things like height and eye color are determined by genetics and proper, regulated organ function, I thought. So what science could there be that says the human body changes in those ways when playing basketball repeatedly?
Diving Into The Research
So, I began to dig. And while the results are still somewhat inconclusive, believe it or not, there’s some evidence to support the ideas that obsessively playing basketball might impact your height. For starters, when the typical individual plays a game of basketball, they do an awful lot of jumping.
Leaping with arms outstretched to catch a pass, darting forward to attempt to steal the ball, jumping vertically to try and block a shot from an opposing player, all of these moves require you to push off with your legs and feet, which is actually where this gets kind of fascinating.
Nerves, Growth & Jumping
As it turns out, there’s an incredible number of nerve endings in your feet, and strangely enough, they’re primarily connected to the pituitary and thyroid glands. These two organs are more or less responsible for regulating a human’s growth throughout their lives.
When engaging in a lot of jumping, these nerves are being triggered on overtime, sending significant signals to these growth organs. In recent years, a few studies have provided preliminary data that may actually show a correlation between increased height and a proclivity towards jumping. While the verdict is out regarding this part of the argument, the early data is very compelling.
The second idea concerning human growth is still related to excessive jumping, but the effects are thought to be different. Jumping is known to increase the flow and production of fluids in your body, everything from saliva to your spinal fluid. When this happens, your body is encouraged to produce higher levels of the hormone “IGF-1” specifically inside of your legs and spinal cord.
This hormone is scientifically proven to aid in the lengthening of your bones, thus helping you grow taller. When a human body is airborne, it decompresses due to it being free of the weight that usually compresses it. It’s thought that there may be some relevance to the idea that repetitive compression and decompression (the main reason people use inversion tables) would also cause more fluid activity and blood flow inside of your bones’ growth plates.
I was definitely shocked to come across significant amounts of data supporting the idea that playing basketball would affect your growth. That being said, these are preliminary hypotheses and require a lot of additional studies before any reliable conclusions can be drawn. My thought is that, like a lot of individuals, if you’re naturally tall then you may just gravitate to the activities that your body is well-suited for, like basketball. Perhaps the evidence merely points out that all people engaging in activities that affect growth may just get a little bit taller. I’m excited for scientists to find out more.
I’ll leave you with a sweet video featuring Spud Webb in the slam dunk contest.
Other amazing basketball players on the court today that come to mind: