Increased Bone Mineral Density after Prolonged Electrically Induced Cycle Training of Paralyzed Limbs in Spinal Cord Injured Man
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Spinal cord injured (SCI) individuals have a substantial loss of bone mass in the lower limbs, equaling approximately 50% of normal values in the proximal tibia, and this has been associated with a high incidence of low impact fractures. To evaluate if this inactivity-associated condition in the SCI population can be reversed with prolonged physical training, ten SCI individuals [ages 35.3 ± 2.3 years (mean ± standard error [SE]); post injury time: 12.5 ± 2.7 years, range 2–24 years; level of lesion: C6–Th4; weight: 78 ± 3.8 kg] performed 12 months of Functional Electrical Stimulated (FES) upright cycling for 30 min per day, 3 days per week, followed by six months with only one weekly training session. Bone mineral density (BMD) was determined before training and 12 and 18 months later. BMD was measured in the lumbar spine, the femoral neck, and the proximal tibia by dual energy absorptiometry (DEXA, Nordland XR 26 MK1). Before training, BMD was in the proximal tibia (52%), as well as in the femoral neck, lower in SCI subjects than in controls of same age (P < 0.05). BMD of the lumbar spine did not differ between groups (P > 0.05). After 12 months of training, the BMD of the proximal tibia had increased 10%, from 0.49 ± 0.04 to 0.54 ± 0.04 g/cm2 (P < 0.05). After a further 6 months with reduced training, the BMD in the proximal tibia no longer differed from the BMD before training (P > 0.05). No changes were observed in the lumbar spine or in the femoral neck in response to FES cycle training. It is concluded that in SCI, the loss of bone mass in the proximal tibia can be partially reversed by regular long-term FES cycle exercise. However, one exercise session per week is insufficient to maintain this increase.
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