PURPOSE: Athletes in weight bearing sports may benefit from higher bone mineral density (BMD). However, some athletes are at risk for impaired BMD with Female Athlete Triad (Triad). The purpose of this study is to understand the influence of sports participation and Triad on BMD. We hypothesize that athletes in high-impact and multi-directional loading sports will have highest BMD, whereas non-impact and low-impact sports will have lowest BMD. Triad risk factors are expected to reduce BMD values independent of sports participation.METHODS: 239 female athletes participating in 16 collegiate sports completed dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans to measure BMD Z-scores of the lumbar spine(LS) and total body(TB). Height and weight were measured to calculate body mass index (BMI). Triad risk assessment variables were obtained from preparticipation examination. Mean BMD Z-scores were compared between sports and by sport category (high-impact, multi-directional, low-impact, and non-impact). Multivariable regression analyses were performed to identify differences of BMD Z-scores accounting for Triad and body size/composition.RESULTS: Athlete populations with lowest average BMD Z-scores included synchronized swimming (LS:-0.34,TB:0.21) swimming/diving (LS:0.34,TB:-0.06), crew/rowing (LS:0.27,TB:0.62), and cross-country (LS:0.29,TB:0.91). Highest values were in gymnastics (LS:1.96,TB:1.37), volleyball (LS:1.90,TB:1.74), basketball (LS:1.73,TB:1.99), and softball (LS:1.68,TB:1.78). All Triad risk factors were associated with lower BMD Z-scores in univariable analyses; only low BMI and oligomenorrhea/amenorrhea were associated in multivariable analyses (all P<0.05). Accounting for Triad risk factors and body size/composition, high-impact sports were associated with higher LS and TB BMD Z-scores and non-impact sports with lower LS and TB BMD Z-scores compared to low-impact sport (all P<0.05).CONCLUSION: Both sport type and Triad risk factors influence BMD. Athletes in low-impact and non-impact sports and athletes with low BMI and oligomenorrhea/amenorrhea are at highest risk for reduced BMD.
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