The muscle-bone unit in adolescent swimmers
Most researchers adjust bone by lean mass when comparing swimmers with controls. This adjustment is done under the assumption that lean affects bone similarly in both groups. Nonetheless, we found that the muscle-bone association is uncoupled in swimmers, and consequently, researchers should avoid this adjustment when evaluating swimmers’ bone.
To examine the functional and structural muscle-bone unit in adolescent swimmers.
Sixty-five swimmers (34 girls/31 boys) and 119 controls (51 girls/68 boys) participated in the study. Muscle cross-sectional area (MCSA), bone mineral content (BMC), and polar strength-strain index (SSIPOL) were measured in the non-dominant radius by peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT). Subtotal BMC and lean mass were evaluated with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Handgrip and isometric knee extension (IKE) tests were performed to determine muscle force. The effect of MCSA, lean and force on SSIPOL, and BMC were tested, and the functional and structural muscle-bone ratios of swimmers and controls were compared.
Both muscle size (MCSA and lean) and muscle force (handgrip and IKE) influenced BMC and SSIPOL in swimmers and controls similarly. Swimmers presented normal MCSA and lean values for their height, but when compared with controls, swimmers presented a higher amount of lean and MCSA for the same BMC or SSIPOL (structural muscle-bone unit). For the functional muscle-bone unit, different results were found for the lower and upper limbs, as no differences were found for the upper limbs, while for the lower limbs, swimmers presented higher muscle force for the same amount of BMC.
The contradictory results regarding BMC in swimmers found in previous studies could partly be explained with the findings of the present study that reinforce the idea that swimming is not an effective sport to practice regarding bone mass and that the muscle-bone unit is different in swimmers than in controls.
KeywordsBody composition Bone health Children Exercise Musculoskeletal Swimming
Compliance with ethical standards
Study design, protocol, and consent forms were performed in accordance with the Helsinki Declaration of 1964 (revised in Fortaleza, 2013) and were reviewed and approved by the Research Ethics Committee of the Government of Aragon (ref. CP08/2012, CEICA, Spain).
Conflicts of interest
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