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Calcif Tissue Int. 2004 Dec;75(6):482-7. Epub 2004 Sep 16.

Impact of detraining on bone loss in former collegiate female gymnasts.

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  • 1Exercise and Sports Nutrition Program, Texas Woman's University, PO Box 425647, Denton, Texas 76204-5647, USA.


Undesirable changes in health-related parameters are thought to occur in retiring female athletes, but this has not been examined in longitudinal studies. The purpose of this study was to examine longitudinal changes in bone mineral density (BMD), body composition, and dietary intake in gymnasts and controls. Nonathletic, college-age women (: n = 9) were selected as a control group for comparison to the gymnasts (n = 10). Initial BMDs for the gymnasts were determined by using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (Lunar, DPX) at the beginning of their final competitive year. Initial BMDs for the controls were measured during a similar time-frame. Follow-up measurements were made at least 1-year after the initial measurement. Gymnasts had significantly greater BMD of the femoral neck (1.262 versus 1.058 g/cm2, respectively), Ward's triangle (1.230 versus 1.008 g/cm2), greater trochanter (1002 versus 0.822 g/cm2), and total body (1.232 versus 1.145 g/cm2) than controls while still competing (P < .05). Following retirement from competition, (mean years of retirement, 4 years), BMD of the gymnasts remained significantly greater than controls at total body, femoral neck, trochanter, and Ward's triangle (P < .05). Significant declines in femoral neck, Ward's triangle, and greater trochanter BMD were found in both gymnasts and controls (0.72% to 1.9% per year), but only gymnasts had a significant decline at the lumbar spine (0.87% per year). In conclusion, BMD changes in former gymnasts appear to be site-specific, and gymnasts continue to have greater proximal femur BMD than controls, despite their decreased exercise, which may help postpone or prevent osteoporosis later in life.

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