Friday, March 12, 2004
Which sport provides the greatest benefit to adolescent women in building bone mineral density (BMD)? According to researchers reporting Thursday in Scientific Paper 081, adolescent female athletes who were soccer players showed greater peripheral BMD than athletes involved in weightlifting, swimming, or tennis.
"Osteoporosis and low bone mass are major public health threats according to new figures released by the National Osteoporosis Foundation," reported the authors. "To reduce the risk of developing deficient BMD in later adulthood, conventional thinking suggests that people maximize their peak BMD in the axial skeleton in early adulthood when they are most capable of performing the intense physical activities that increase BMD."
As the authors noted, the correlation between the health of the skeletal system, physical activity and aging continues to be a topic of concern for orthopaedic surgeons. Exercise has shown promise as a means of preventing osteoporosis-related fractures. This is of critical importance to the health of a woman's musculoskeletal system as she ages, particularly with regard to risk of developing osteoporosis and subsequent fractures.
Although physical activity during adolescence is critical to the development and expansion of healthy bone, the extent that sports of varying skeletal loading have on bone development during adolescence is unclear. The authors compared lower extremity BMD in adolescent female athletes between 8 and 17 years of age who participated in sports that involved varying degrees of skeletal loading.
According to lead author Laura M. Gehrig, MD, "The hypothesis of this study was that athletes in impact-loading sports, such as soccer, would have greater BMD than those in active-loading sports, such as swimming."
In the study, researchers recorded areal densities (g/cm2) of the calcaneus from the dominant leg with use of a peripheral densitometer. The female athletes who participated had been involved in their respective sport for at least one year, trained for at least 10 months per year and at least 5 hours per week, and were not currently involved in any other organized sport. They included 15 soccer players (age: 15.2 ± 1.22 years; height: 164.1 ± 7.2 cm; weight: 55.2 ± 4.4 kg); 14 tennis players (age: 10.8 ± 2.2 years; height: 149.4 ± 13.1 cm; weight: 41.7 ± 12.7 kg); 29 swimmers (age: 12.0 ± 2.1 years; height: 155.9 ± 9.6 cm; weight: 46.2 ± 11.5 kg), and 19 Olympic-style weightlifters (age: 13.6 ± 1.3 years; height: 158.7 ± 9 cm; weight: 61.3 ± 18.7 kg).
Because of the known correlation between body mass index (BMI) and age with BMD, BMI and age were used as covariates. The ANCOVA (Analysis of Variance) showed a significant effect of sport suggesting that BMD differs between sports (F = 8.695, p = < .001). Post-hoc between-group comparisons showed that the BMD of the soccer players was 26 percent greater than that of the swimmers (p < .001), 21 percent greater than the tennis players (p = .003), and 4 percent greater than the weightlifters (p = .001).
The authors concluded that these data suggest that the skeletal loading associated with soccer may result in greater bone growth and density than weightlifting, swimming, or tennis. "Repetitive impact loading, such as that which occurs in playing soccer, would appear to benefit the bone mineral density of the calcaneus," concluded Dr. Gehrig.
In addition to Dr. Gehrig, researchers authors included James William Bellew, MD, George Gehrig, and James A. Albright, MD, all of Shreveport, La.
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