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J Bone Miner Res. 2012 Nov;27(11):2298-305. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.1689.

Former premenarcheal gymnasts exhibit site-specific skeletal benefits in adulthood after long-term retirement.

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


Young female gymnasts have greater bone strength compared to controls; although possibly due to selection into gymnastics, it is thought that their loading activity during growth increases their bone mass, influencing both bone geometry and architecture. If such bone mass and geometric adaptations are maintained, this may potentially decrease the risk of osteoporosis and risk of fracture later in life. However, there is limited evidence of the persisting benefit of gymnastic exercise during growth on adult bone geometric parameters. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine whether adult bone geometry, volumetric density, and estimated strength were greater in retired gymnasts compared to controls, 10 years after retirement from the sport. Bone geometric and densitometric parameters, measured by peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT) at the radius and tibia, were compared between 25 retired female gymnasts and 22 controls, age range 22 to 30 years, by multivariate analysis of covariance (covariates: age, height, and muscle cross-sectional area). Retired gymnasts had significantly greater adjusted total and trabecular area (16%), total and trabecular bone mineral content (BMC) (18% and 22%, respectively), and estimated strength (21%) at the distal radius (p < 0.05) than controls. Adjusted total and cortical area and BMC, medullary area, and estimated strength were also significantly greater (13% to 46%) in retired gymnasts at the 30% and 65% radial shaft sites (p < 0.05). At the distal tibia, retired gymnasts had 12% to 13% greater total and trabecular BMC and volumetric bone mineral density as well as 21% greater estimated strength; total and cortical BMC and estimated strength were also greater at the tibial shaft (8%, 11%, and 10%, respectively) (p < 0.05). Former female gymnasts have significantly better geometric and densitometric properties, as well as estimated strength, at the radius and tibia 10 years after retirement from gymnastics compared to females who did not participate in gymnastics in childhood and adolescence.

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