Original Article

Osteoporosis International

, Volume 19, Issue 7, pp 1011-1018

First online:

Trabecular bone microarchitecture in female collegiate gymnasts

  • C. M. ModleskyAffiliated withDepartment of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, University of Delaware Email author 
  • , S. MajumdarAffiliated withMagnetic Resonance Science Center, Department of Radiology, University of California, San Francisco
  • , G. A. DudleyAffiliated withDepartment of Kinesiology, University of Georgia

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Using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging, we observed more developed trabecular bone microarchitecture in the proximal tibia of female collegiate gymnasts vs. matched controls. This suggests that high-load physical activity may have a positive effect on the trabecular microarchitecture in weight-bearing bone.


Participation in physical activities that overload the skeleton, such as artistic gymnastics, is associated with increased areal bone mineral density (aBMD); however, the status of trabecular microarchitecture in the weight-bearing bone of gymnasts is unknown.


Eight female collegiate artistic gymnasts and eight controls matched for age, height, body mass, gender and race were recruited for the study. Apparent trabecular bone volume to total volume (appBV/TV), trabecular number (appTb.N), thickness (appTb.Th) and trabecular separation (appTb.Sp) were determined using high resolution magnetic resonance imaging. Areal bone mineral density, bone mineral content (BMC) and bone area in the proximal tibia were determined using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Group differences were determined using t-tests. The magnitude of group differences was expressed using Cohen’s d (d).


Gymnasts had higher appBV/TV (13.6%, d = 1.22) and appTb.N (8.4%, d = 1.45), and lower appTb.Sp (13.7%, d = 1.33) than controls (p < 0.05). Gymnasts had higher aBMD and BMC in the proximal tibia, although the differences were smaller in magnitude (d = 0.75 and 0.74, respectively) and not statistically significant (p > 0.05).


The findings suggest that high-load physical activity, such as performed during gymnastics training, may enhance the trabecular microarchitecture of weight-bearing bone.


Exercise Gymnastics Magnetic resonance imaging Mechanical loading Physical activity