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J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact., 2009; 9(4): 198-214, PMID: 19949278

Skeletal geometry and indices of bone strength in artistic gymnasts

Year: 2009

Dowthwaite JN, Scerpella TA
Department of Orthopedic Surgery, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA.


This review addresses bone geometry and indices of skeletal strength associated with exposure to gymnastic loading during growth. A brief background characterizes artistic gymnastics as a mechanical loading model and outlines densitometric techniques, skeletal outcomes and challenges in assessment of skeletal adaptation. The literature on bone geometric adaptation to gymnastic loading is sparse and consists of results for disparate skeletal sites, maturity phases, gender compositions and assessment methods, complicating synthesis of an overriding view. Furthermore, most studies assess only females, with little information on males and adults. Nonetheless, gymnastic loading during growth appears to yield significant enlargement of total and cortical bone geometry (+10 to 30%) and elevation of trabecular density (+20%) in the forearm, yielding elevated indices of skeletal strength (+20 to +50%). Other sites exhibit more moderate geometric and densitometric adaptations (5 to 15%). Mode of adaptation appears to be site-specific; some sites demonstrate marked periosteal and endosteal expansion, whereas other sites exhibit negligible or moderate periosteal expansion coupled with endocortical contraction. Further research is necessary to address sex-, maturity- and bone tissue-specific adaptation, as well as maintenance of benefits beyond loading cessation.

GID: 2109; Last update: 18.12.2009
More information: Original Article