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Bone Density, Structure and Strength, and Their Determinants in Aging Sprint Athletes


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: December 2012 - Volume 44 - Issue 12 - p 2340–2349
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318267c954
Basic Sciences

Purpose This study was undertaken to examine bone properties in masters sprinters of different ages and younger reference subjects. In addition, the association of sport-specific ground reaction force, muscle, training, and hormone characteristics with the bone parameters was evaluated in the athletes.

Methods Bone densitometric, structural, and strength parameters were assessed by peripheral quantitative computed tomography at the distal and midtibia in 83 male sprinters (40–85 yr) and 19 physically active referents (31–45 yr). Between-group differences were analyzed by ANCOVA with body mass and height as covariates.

Results Bone values were generally greater in athletes than referents, the greatest differences being in bending strength of the tibia shaft as estimated by maximum moment of inertia (I max). Among athletes, trabecular volumetric bone mineral density of distal tibia was 12% (P < 0.05) lower in the oldest (≥70 yr) versus youngest group, whereas the total bone mineral content, total cross-sectional area, and compressive bone strength index did not differ between the groups. At midtibia, no age group differences were present in the total bone mineral content, total cross-sectional area, cortical wall thickness, cortical volumetric bone mineral density, polar mass distribution, minimum moment of inertia, or maximum moment of inertia. After controlling for age, body mass, and height, most loading-related characteristics, knee extensor muscle thickness, and hormone concentrations correlated with the bone parameters. Multivariate regression models explained 12%–67% (mean, 47.5%) of the variance of the bone parameters. Mechanical power in the eccentric phase of the hopping and body mass were consistently the strongest independent predictors in the models.

Conclusion The results suggest that regular sprint training has positive (direction-specific) effects on bone strength and structure in middle- and older-aged athletes. Interindividual differences in bone traits seem to be due to combined effects of exercise loading, body size, and hormonal characteristics.

1Department of Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, FINLAND; 2Department of Biology of Physical Activity, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, FINLAND; 3Department of Medical Rehabilitation, Oulu University Hospital and Institute of Health Sciences, University of Oulu, Oulu, FINLAND; and 4Department of Orthopedics and Traumatology, Helsinki University Central Hospital, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, FINLAND

Address for correspondence: Marko Korhonen, Ph.D., Gerontology Research Centre, Department of Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, P.O. Box 35, FI-40014, Jyväskylä, Finland; E-mail:

Submitted for publication December 2011.

Accepted for publication July 2012.

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©2012The American College of Sports Medicine