European Journal of Pediatrics

, Volume 177, Issue 3, pp 295–310 | Cite as

Soccer helps build strong bones during growth: a systematic review and meta-analysis

  • Gabriel Lozano-Berges
  • Ángel Matute-Llorente
  • Alejandro González-Agüero
  • Alejandro Gómez-Bruton
  • Alba Gómez-Cabello
  • Germán Vicente-Rodríguez
  • José A. Casajús


The aim of this study was to analyze the effects of soccer practice on bone in male and female children and adolescents. MEDLINE, PubMed, SPORTDiscus and Web of Science databases were searched for scientific articles published up to and including October 2016. Twenty-seven studies were included in this systematic review (13 in the meta-analysis). The meta-analysis was performed by using OpenMeta[Analyst] software. It is well documented that soccer practice during childhood provides positive effects on bone mineral content (BMC) and density (BMD) compared to sedentary behaviors and other sports, such as tennis, weightlifting, or swimming. Furthermore, soccer players present higher BMC and BMD in most weight-bearing sites such as the whole body, lumbar spine, hip, and legs. Moreover, bone differences were minimized between groups during prepuberty. Therefore, the maturity status should be considered when evaluating bone. According to meta-analysis results, soccer practice was positively associated with whole-body BMD either in males (mean difference 0.061; 95%CI, 0.042–0.079) or in females (mean difference 0.063; 95%CI, 0.026–0.099).

Conclusion: Soccer may be considered a sport that positively affects bone mass during growth. Pubertal soccer players presented increased bone mass compared to controls or other athletes; however, these bone differences are minimized during the prepubertal stage.

What is known:

It has been described that childhood and adolescence are important periods for bone mass and structure.

Previous studies have demonstrated that soccer participation improves bone mass in male and female children and adolescents.

What is new:

The differences between soccer players and controls are more marked during puberty than prepuberty.

Weight-bearing sites such as lumbar spine, hip, femoral neck, trochanter, intertrochanteric region and both legs are particularly sensitive to soccer actions.


Football Sports Bone mass Bone tissue 



Bone mineral content


Bone mineral density


Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry


Peripheral quantitative computed tomography


Quantitative ultrasound system


Single photon absorptiometry


World Health Organization


Authors’ Contributions

All the authors have been actively involved in the planning and enactment of the study. JAC and GVR were the main researchers in the present study, and GLB was the first author. AML, AGA, AGB, and AGC were co-researchers. GLB and AML independently evaluated all studies, and AGA resolved inter-reviewer disagreements. GLB drafted the document, and AML, AGA, AGB, AGC, GVR and JAC critically reviewed the document. All authors have read and approved of the manuscript.


This work was funded by the Spanish “Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad” (Project DEP 2012-32724). GLB received a Grant FPU 2013 (FPU13/02111) from the “Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte”. AML received a Grant (AP2012/02854) from the “Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte.” AGB received a Grant FPI 2012 (bes-2012-051888) from the “Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad.”

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

431_2017_3060_MOESM1_ESM.docx (47 kb)
Supplementary Table 1 (DOCX 47 kb)
431_2017_3060_MOESM2_ESM.docx (40 kb)
Supplementary Table 2 (DOCX 39 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gabriel Lozano-Berges
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Ángel Matute-Llorente
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Alejandro González-Agüero
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Alejandro Gómez-Bruton
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Alba Gómez-Cabello
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Germán Vicente-Rodríguez
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • José A. Casajús
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.GENUD “Growth, Exercise, NUtrition, and Development”Universidad de ZaragozaZaragozaSpain
  2. 2.Faculty of Health and Sport Science (FCSD), Department of Physiatry and NursingUniversidad de ZaragozaHuescaSpain
  3. 3.Instituto Agroalimentario de Aragón-IA2-(Universidad de Zaragoza -CITA)ZaragozaSpain
  4. 4.Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y Nutrición (CIBERObn)MadridSpain
  5. 5.Centro Universitario de la DefensaZaragozaSpain

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