Aim: The purpose of the study was to investigate the effect of participation in different sports on bone mineral content (BMC) and areal bone mineral density (aBMD) in males, and the possible contribution of participation time (years of practice). Method: A total of 174 male Caucasian subject, aged 17-36y were enrolled in this study. The sample included three groups of professional athletes (56 basketball players (BP), 51 rugby players (RP), 22 handball players (HP)) and 45 age-matched physical fitness subjects as control (CG). All the athletes competed at the national and international level and had trained regularly for at least 3h/d, 6 days/w, 10 months/y for the last 5 years before the study. At the beginning of the competitive season, all subjects had routine anthropometry, and a total body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan for evaluating BMC and aBMD. Statistical analysis used one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with post-hoc analysis (Bonferroni correction) and covariates where appropriate. Results: Age was similar among groups. BP had higher stature than CG, RP and HP (P< 0.001). Body mass was higher in BP and RP than CG (P< 0.001 for both) and HP (P= 0.047; P< 0.001 respectively). RP had higher BMI than CG, BP and HP (P< 0.001 for all). BMC and aBMD were lower in CG than in the three groups of athletes at the total body and regional (arm, leg, pelvis and spine) level. HP had lower total body BMC and aBMD than BP (P< 0.001 for both) and RP (P= 0.022; P= 0.004). RP had greater arm BMC than HP (P< 0.001) and aBMD than BP and HP (P< 0.001 for both). BP had greater leg BMC than RP and HP (P< 0.001 for both) and aBMD than HP (P< 0.001). HP had lower trunk BMC and aBMD than BP (P< 0.001; P= 0.005) and RP (P= 0.013; P= 0.010). Similar results were found after adjusting for age, body mass and stature but for bone parameter at the trunk level, which were no longer different. When the three groups of athletes were compared adjusting also for years of sport practice, BMC and aBMD were greater in BP than HP at the total body level (P= 0.008). Moreover, BP had greater leg aBMD then RP and HP (P= 0.023; P< 0.001 respectively). RP showed greater arm BMC and aBMD than BP and HP (P= 0.001; P= 0.002). Conclusion: This study shows that: 1. Athletes have greater BMC and aBMD than fitness control subjects at the total body and regional level; 2. Bone parameters are dependent, at least partly, on the sport practiced, independently of age and body size; 3. Such a dependency is to some extent independent of years of sport practice. References: 1. Nevill AM. et al. (2003) Modeling elite male athletes peripheral bone mass, assessed using regional dual x-ray absorptiometry. Bone 32: 62-68 2 Kavouras SA et al. (2006) Water polo is associated with an apparent redistribution of bone mass and density from lower to the upper limbs. Eur J Appl Physiol 97: 316-321
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