Bone mineral density in vocational and professional ballet dancers



According to existing literature, bone health in ballet dancers is controversial. We have verified that, compared to controls, young female and male vocational ballet dancers have lower bone mineral density (BMD) at both impact and non-impact sites, whereas female professional ballet dancers have lower BMD only at non-impact sites.


The aims of this study were to (a) assess bone mineral density (BMD) in vocational (VBD) and professional (PBD) ballet dancers and (b) investigate its association with body mass (BM), fat mass (FM), lean mass (LM), maturation and menarche.


The total of 152 VBD (13 ± 2.3 years; 112 girls, 40 boys) and 96 controls (14 ± 2.1 years; 56 girls, 40 boys) and 184 PBD (28 ± 8.5 years; 129 females, 55 males) and 160 controls (27 ± 9.5 years; 110 female, 50 males) were assessed at the lumbar spine (LS), femoral neck (FN), forearm and total body by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Maturation and menarche were assessed via questionnaires.


VBD revealed lower unadjusted BMD at all anatomical sites compared to controls (p < 0.001); following adjustments for Tanner stage and gynaecological age, female VBD showed similar BMD values at impact sites. However, no factors were found to explain the lower adjusted BMD values in VBD (female and male) at the forearm (non-impact site), nor for the lower adjusted BMD values in male VBD at the FN. Compared to controls, female PBD showed higher unadjusted and adjusted BMD for potential associated factors at the FN (impact site) (p < 0.001) and lower adjusted at the forearm (p < 0.001). Male PBD did not reveal lower BMD than controls at any site.


Both females and males VBD have lower BMD at impact and non-impact sites compared to control, whereas this is only the case at non-impact site in female PBD. Maturation seems to explain the lower BMD at impact sites in female VBD.

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This work was supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology [PhD grant number SFRH/BD/88585/2012]. Thanks are expressed to the radiology services of the Beatriz Angelo Hospital. A very special thanks goes to all participants who volunteered.

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Correspondence to T. Amorim.

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Amorim, T., Koutedakis, Y., Nevill, A. et al. Bone mineral density in vocational and professional ballet dancers. Osteoporos Int 28, 2903–2912 (2017).

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  • Associated factors
  • Ballerinas
  • Bone mass
  • Elite dance
  • Prevalence