Former college artistic gymnasts maintain higher BMD: a nine-year follow-up
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If higher bone gains acquired from weight-bearing sports during growth persist into old age, the residual benefits could delay or even prevent osteoporotic fractures. The purpose of this study was to determine if the higher areal bone mineral density (aBMD) observed 15 years after competitive training and competition in former female college artistic gymnasts (GYM) compared with controls (CON) is maintained nine years later in this same cohort approaching menopause. In this 9-year follow-up, aBMD changes were also compared between GYM (n=16; aged 45.3±3.3 years) and CON (n=13; aged 45.4±3.8 years).
Total body, lumbar spine, proximal femur, femoral neck, leg, and arm aBMD were assessed at baseline and follow-up using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), (Hologic QDR-1000W). GYM had higher aBMD at all sites at follow-up (P<0.05; η 2>0.14).
While there were no significant differences between groups for percent changes in aBMD at the total body, lumbar spine, total proximal femur, femoral neck, and arm, the change in leg aBMD was significantly different between GYM and CON (P=0.05; η 2=0.14).
Former female college artistic gymnasts maintained significantly higher aBMD than controls 24 years after retirement from gymnastics training and competition. This study provides greater insight into the effects of past athletic participation on skeletal health in women approaching menopause.
KeywordsDetraining Exercise Former athletes Former gymnasts Gymnastics Retired gymnasts
The authors gratefully acknowledge the study participants and families for their commitment to this project. The authors thank Kimberlee Eggers-Anderson and Traci Nobles-Pollock for management of data collection and Katy Yurman for assistance in locating participants and manuscript editing.
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