Sports participation in
high school and college leads to high bone density and greater rates of bone
loss in young men: results from a population-based study.
MM, Weidauer L, Wey HE, Blinkley TL, Beare TM, and Specker BL. Calcif
Tissue Int. 2018. [Epub Ahead
of Print].
Take Home Message:
 Sport participation in high school and
college positively contributes to maintaining bone mineral density and bone
mineral content. As athletes age however, these losses are less significant.
While public education about osteoporosis
often focuses on women, there are significant long-term impacts on men as well.
Therefore, we need to learn about how factors, like sport participation,
influence bone remodeling
to understand the onset and progression of osteoporosis in men. Therefore,
Minett and colleagues completed a study to determine whether sports
participation in high school and college was associated with bone mass or bone
loss. Researchers identified 253 male participants (20 to 66 years of age) using
the South Dakota Rural Bone Health Study. During 7.5 years, the researchers collected data every 18 months on anthropometrics, bone,
body composition, grip strength, diet, physical activity, height, weight, and
arm length. Bone measurements were collected with dual-energy x-ray
absorptiometry (DEXA) and peripheral quantitative computed tomography (left
wrist only). Overall, participants who reported more than 7 sports seasons had
greater bone mineral content and bone mineral density than those who reported 6
or less sports seasons. When looking specifically at bone mineral content or density
at the hip and spine the authors found that the differences between sport
participants was most pronounced among younger members of the study. However, younger
participants with greater than 7 seasons of sports participation showed a more
rapid loss of bone mineral content and bone mineral density.
Overall, the results of the study support participation in
sports as a strategy for establishing greater bone mineral content and bone
mineral density early in life. The data also suggests that as participants age,
the differences between those who participated in sports and those who did not,
is less significant. This may be explained by the faster rate of bone loss that
occurs in the young participants who played in 7 or more seasons. Ultimately
while differences in bone mineral content and bone mineral density are less
significant as participants age, physical activity plays an important part in
maintaining bone strength. This is not surprising, as physical activity is a
common strategy for mitigating bone density loss especially in older patients. When
the authors adjusted for a person’s current physical activity it didn’t change
the results much, but it may be more important to know how much loading was
involved in the activities these participants performed. This would help
clarify if continuing to weightlift or play their sports recreationally may be
beneficial in preventing the more accelerated loss of bone. Future research on
this topic, could also benefit from identifying specific sports rather than
generic seasons of sport participation. This data would help clinicians better understand
how participation in different sports influences bone strength both immediately
and over the course of life. Until this research is completed, clinicians could
find it helpful to inquire about a patient’s past sport participation.
Furthermore, clinicians working with younger athletes should encourage athletes
to continue a healthy lifestyle after their competitive athletic career.
Questions for Discussion: Do you inquire about patient’s past sport
participation during the injury evaluation process? If not, do you think this
study presents enough data to consider making this a part of your injury
evaluation process?
Written by: Kyle Harris
Reviewed by:  Jeffrey Driban