Introduction: 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men will suffer from osteoporosis and/or osteoporotic
fracture in their lifetime. Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by low bone mass and bone
structural deterioration, which leads to a decrease in bone strength and an increase in fracture
susceptibility. Physical activity is a critical element for building a strong skeletal structure and
offsetting bone fragility in later life. Thus, there is interest in identifying activities that are
Purpose: To investigate differences in bone mineral density (BMD) and bone strength in elite
male and female athletes.
Methods: A total 160 elite collegiate (18-25 years) ice hockey (male=19, female=21),
swimming (male=13, female=17), soccer (female=15), and running (male=19, female=22)
athletes and non-active controls (male=15, female=19) were studied. Areal (aBMD) and
volumetric (vBMD) bone mineral densities and bone strength were assessed via dual energy
X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT).
Part 1: Females in the weight-bearing sports, soccer and ice hockey, were associated with the
highest adjusted total body and lumbar spine aBMD compared to swimmers and controls. At
the distal tibia, the soccer group demonstrated significantly greater trabecular vBMD and bone
strength index compared to all other groups. At the distal radius, ice hockey players were
associated with greater bone strength index compared to swimmers and controls. There were
no differences between the soccer and ice hockey groups in any of the tibia measurements.
Part 2: Gender differences were found in relation to bone strength of the tibia between elite
male and female athletes. Males in weight-bearing sports (ice hockey and running) had greater
section modulus, strength strain index at the tibial shaft and tibial mid-shaft compared to their
female counterparts. No differences were evident between males and females of the nonweight
bearing swimming group.
Weight-bearing sports such as hockey, soccer, and running are beneficial activities to enhance
bone mass and strength in males and females. In these populations, skeletal adaptations
appear to be influenced by their loading environment. However, in the weight-bearing sports,
males had greater bone strength at all sites compared to females. This is congruent with
findings from the general non-active population. Even after adjustments the differences
existed. Strength differences may help explain the discrepancies in fracture rates between
males and females.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2009. Major: Kinesiology. Advisors: Robert C. Serfass, Moira Anne Petit. 1 computer file (PDF), xv, 120 pages, appendices A-D.
Bruininks, Brett Douglas.
Volumetric bone mineral density and bone strength based on sport in elite female and male athletes..
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