Some Female Athletes Risking Weaker Bones

FRIDAY Oct. 26, 2007 -- Certain female college athletes, such as swimmers, divers and runners, have lower bone density than other athletes, a new study finds.

If bone density levels in these athletes continued to decrease, they could be at increased risk for future stress fractures, other bone injuries, and even osteoporosis, said a team from Michigan State University in East Lansing.

Led by kinesiology professor Jim Pivarnik, the researchers compared bone density levels of female athletes in a number of sports, including gymnastics, softball, cross country, track, field hockey, soccer, swimming and diving.

"The good news is none of the athletes had osteopenia, which means bone density is still at normal levels," Pivarnik said in a prepared statement. "But there were differences according to sport, and if a given athlete has a tendency for stress fractures or similar injuries, a lower than average value may be meaningful to her sports medicine physician."

It was "mildly surprising" to find that women who were runners -- a high-impact sport -- had lower-than-average bone density levels similar to those of women involved in low-impact sports such as swimming and diving, Pivarnik said.

"We're not sure why the runners have such low values. Perhaps it's related to diet or amount of calories spent during exercise, but we don't know for sure," he said.

The findings are published in the October issue of the Journal of Athletic Training.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about bone health.

Posted: October 2007


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