Osteoporosis International

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 207–216

Distal radius geometry and skeletal strength indices after peripubertal artistic gymnastics

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00198-010-1233-2

Cite this article as:
Dowthwaite, J.N. & Scerpella, T.A. Osteoporos Int (2011) 22: 207. doi:10.1007/s00198-010-1233-2



Development of optimal skeletal strength should decrease adult bone fragility. Nongymnasts (non) were compared with girls exposed to gymnastics during growth (ex/gym), using peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT) to evaluate postmenarcheal bone geometry, density, and strength. Pre- and perimenarcheal gymnastic loading yields advantages in indices of postmenarcheal bone geometry and skeletal strength.


Two prior studies using pQCT have reported bone density and size advantages in Tanner I/II gymnasts, but none describe gymnasts' bone properties later in adolescence. The current study used pQCT to evaluate whether girls exposed to gymnastics during late childhood growth and perimenarcheal growth exhibited greater indices of distal radius geometry, density, and skeletal strength.


Postmenarcheal subjects underwent 4% and 33% distal radius pQCT scans, yielding: 1) vBMD and cross-sectional areas (CSA) (total bone, compartments); 2) polar strength-strain index; 3) index of structural strength in axial compression. Output was compared for ex/gym vs. non, adjusting for gynecological age and stature (maturity and body size), reporting means, standard errors, and significance.


Sixteen postmenarcheal ex/gym (age 16.7 years; gynecological age 3.4 years) and 13 non (age 16.2 years; gynecological age 3.6 years) were evaluated. At both diaphysis and metaphysis, ex/gym exhibited greater CSA and bone strength indices than non; ex/gym exhibited 79% larger intramedullary CSA than non (p < 0.05). Ex/gym had significantly higher 4% trabecular vBMD; differences were not detected for 4% total vBMD and 33% cortical vBMD.


Following pre-/perimenarcheal gymnastic exposure, relative to nongymnasts, postmenarcheal ex/gym demonstrated greater indices of distal radius geometry and skeletal strength (metaphysis and diaphysis) with greater metaphyseal trabecular vBMD; larger intramedullary cavity size was particularly striking.


AdolescenceBone geometryBone strengthFemaleMechanical loadingpQCT

Copyright information

© International Osteoporosis Foundation and National Osteoporosis Foundation 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Orthopedic SurgerySUNY Upstate Medical University, Institute for Human PerformanceSyracuseUSA