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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003 Mar;35(3):513-8.

Strength indices of the proximal femur and shaft in prepubertal female gymnasts.

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College of Kinesiology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada.



The role of impact loading activity on bone mass is well established; however, there are little data on the effects of exercise on bone geometry and indices of bone strength. The primary purpose of this study was to compare indices of bone strength at the proximal femur (PF) between elite premenarcheal gymnasts (N= 30) and age-matched controls (N= 30).


Structural properties of the proximal femur were derived from the hip analyses program and included measurement of subperiosteal width, endosteal diameter, cross-sectional area, bone mineral density, cross-section moment of inertia (CSMI), and section modulus (Z). These parameters were measured for two regions of the PF: the narrow neck (NN), and the shaft (S). In addition, a strength index (S-SI) was calculated at the shaft by dividing the Z at the shaft by the femur length. A secondary purpose was to compare bone mineral content (BMC) values at the total body, lumbar spine, and three sites at the PF (neck, trochanter, and total) between the groups. All dependent values were compared adjusting for height and weight using an ANCOVA procedure and for relative lean body mass. RESULTS The gymnasts had significantly greater size-adjusted strength indices (CSMI, Z, and SI) at the NN and S. Gymnasts also had significantly greater size-adjusted BMC at all sites investigated. However, these differences disappeared when adjusted for relative lean body mass.


When adjusted for body size, gymnasts had significantly greater indices of both axial strength and bending strength at the NN region of the PF and S, as well as a greater bone SI at the femoral shaft. These differences may be related to greater relative lean body mass attained in gymnastics training.

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