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 (Imax). 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.