Impact sports increase bone strength in senior athletes

Impact sports increase bone strength in senior athletes

Study finds low-impact exercises do not provide same benefit

Running, basketball and other high-impact sports may lead to stronger bones as people age, according to scientific presentation 429. Measurements conducted on senior Olympic athletes found that the bone mineral density (BMD) was significantly greater in those who participated in impact sports than in athletes who competed in low-impact sports like swimming and cycling.

“Although we know that exercise is vital as we get older, this study finds that the kind of exercise we choose can be just as important,” said Vonda Wright, MD, lead author. “The findings show that a key to maintaining strong, healthy bones as we age is to engage in impact sports.”

The study evaluated 298 athletes competing in the 2005 Senior Olympic Games in Pittsburgh. The athletes, ages 50 to 93, completed a health-history questionnaire and underwent ultrasound to measure BMD. The BMD T-score for athletes in the high-impact group was 0.4 (1.3) versus -1.0 (1.4) for athletes in the non-high impact group. After controlling for age, sex, obesity and osteoporosis medication, participation in high-impact sports was found to be a significant predictor of BMD.

“The costs associated with caring for people with osteoporosis and fractures caused by frail bones are rising as the population ages,” Dr. Wright concluded. “Our study implies that persistent participation in impact sports can positively influence bone health even in the oldest athletes.”

Osteoporosis is a disease of progressive bone loss affecting 28 million Americans and contributing to an estimated 1.5 million bone fractures per year. One in two women and one in five men over age 65 will sustain bone fractures due to osteoporosis.

The research team included Dr. Wright, Rodrigo Kaz, MD; James J. Irrgang, PhD., Peter Z. Cohen, MD; and Kimberly A. Francis, MS, all of Pittsburgh.

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