Bone mass in the young athlete

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå University

Abstract: Bone mass and bone size accumulate during childhood and adolescence and peak in the twenties. The obtained peak bone mass has been suggested to be a major determinant of bone mass even in the very elderly. Although, genetic factors are the main determinants, environmental and lifestyle factors also play a crucial role in modulating maximal bone mass. Assessing these lifestyle factors would be of great importance for the intervention strategies against osteoporosis.  The first aim of this thesis was to compare the bone mass and bone size in male and female young adults on a high level of physical activity with males or females on a low level of physical activity. Furthermore, it also aimed to investigate the influence of pubertal maturity, menstrual disturbances, and different body constitutional factors on bone mass and size during adolescence and young adulthood.  The female activity groups consisted of cross-county skiers, soccer players, and rope skippers. Compared to their age-matched inactive controls, all these athletic groups demonstrated a significantly higher bone mineral density (BMD) at those sites subjected to the sport-specific loading. Rope-skipping, a very high impact activity was associated with a higher bone size, preferentially in the lower extremity, suggesting an effect of weight-bearing activity also on bone geometry. The effect of menstrual disturbances was evaluated in a group of long-distance runners, where amenorrheic runners had significantly lower BMD in both trabecular and also cortical bone in the lower extremity compared to eumenorrheic runners, suggesting that weight-bearing activity cannot compensate for the shortfall of reduced estrogen levels.  The male activity groups consisted of ice hockey players and badminton players. Compared to their age-matched controls, both athletic groups demonstrated a significantly higher BMD at those sites subjected to the sport-specific loading. Especially badminton was associated with a high BMD, suggesting that physical activity, including jumps in unusual directions has a great osteogenic potential.  The main determinants of BMD in both male and females were, except for type of physical activity, activity, muscle strength, height, and different body constitutional factors. However, the relationships with muscle strength and body constitution were somewhat weaker in the athletic groups, especially in the males, indicating that impact forces may be of greater importance in regulating bone mass in highly trained athletes. Yet bone size was largely determined by parameters related to body size and less strongly to physical activity. In a prospective study on adolescent boys, the changes in bone mass during late puberty were mainly accounted for by growth and development, including height and pubertal maturation, and less to physical activity level. Thus, the osteogenic effect from physical activity seems to be of importance for bone mass achievement predominantly before late puberty.

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