Short-term and long-term site-specific effects of tennis playing on trabecular and cortical bone at the distal radius


Mechanical loading during growth magnifies the normal increase in bone diameter occurring in long bone shafts, but the response to loading in long bone ends remains unclear. The aim of the study was to investigate the effects of tennis playing during growth at the distal radius, comparing the bone response at trabecular and cortical skeletal sites. The influence of training duration was examined by studying bone response in short-term (children) and long-term (young adults) perspectives. Bone area, bone mineral content (BMC), and bone mineral density (BMD) of the radius were measured by DXA in 28 young (11.6 ± 1.4 years old) and 47 adult tennis players (22.3 ± 2.7 years old), and 70 age-matched controls (12 children, 58 adults) at three sites: the ultradistal region (trabecular), the mid-distal region, and the third-distal region (cortical). At the ultradistal radius, young and adult tennis players displayed similar side-to-side differences, the asymmetry in BMC reaching 16.3% and 13.8%, respectively (P < 0.0001). At the mid- and third-distal radius, the asymmetry was much greater in adults than in children (P < 0.0001) for all the bone parameters (mid-distal radius, +6.6% versus +15.6%; third-distal radius, +6.9% versus +13.3%, for BMC). Epiphyseal bone enduring longitudinal growth showed a great capacity to respond to mechanical loading in children. Prolonging tennis playing into adulthood was associated with further increase in bone mineralization at diaphyseal skeletal sites. These findings illustrate the benefits of practicing impact-loading sports during growth and maintaining physical activity into adulthood to enhance bone mass accrual and prevent fractures later in life.

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Correspondence to Gaële Ducher.

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Ducher, G., Tournaire, N., Meddahi-Pellé, A. et al. Short-term and long-term site-specific effects of tennis playing on trabecular and cortical bone at the distal radius. J Bone Miner Metab 24, 484–490 (2006).

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Key words

  • growth
  • unilateral loading
  • child
  • bone mineral density
  • forearm