Open Access Open Badges Research article

Bone mineral density in elite adolescent female figure skaters

Kathy Prelack123*, Johanna Dwyer456, Paula Ziegler7 and Joseph J Kehayias8

Author Affiliations

1 Clinical Nutrition, Shriners, Hospitals For Children, 51 Blossom Street, Boston, MA, 02114, USA

2 Department of Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, 51 Blossom Street, Boston, MA, 02114, USA

3 Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, 150 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA, 02111, USA

4 Frances Stern Nutrition Center, Tufts Medical Center, 800 Washington Street, Box #783, Boston, MA, 02111, USA

5 Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, 711 Washington Street, Boston, MA, 02111, USA

6 School of Medicine, Tufts University, 136 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA, 02111, USA

7 College of Saint Elizabeth, 2 Convent Road, Morristown, NJ, 07960, USA

8 Body Composition Laboratory USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, 711 Washington Street, Boston, MA, 02111, USA

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Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2012, 9:57  doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-57

Published: 27 December 2012


Elite adolescent figure skaters must accommodate both the physical demands of competitive training and the accelerated rate of bone growth that is associated with adolescence, in this sport that emphasizes leanness. Although, these athletes apparently have sufficient osteogenic stimuli to mitigate the effects of possible low energy availability on bone health, the extent or magnitude of bone accrual also varies with training effects, which differ among skater disciplines.

We studied differences in total and regional bone mineral density in 36 nationally ranked skaters among 3 skater disciplines: single, pairs, and dancers.

Bone mineral density (BMD) of the total body and its regions was measured by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Values for total body, spine, pelvis and leg were entered into a statistical mixed regression model to identify the effect of skater discipline on bone mineralization while controlling for energy, vitamin D, and calcium intake.

The skaters had a mean body mass index of 19.8 ± 2.1 and % fat mass of 19.2 ± 5.8. After controlling for dietary intakes of energy, calcium, and vitamin D, there was a significant relationship between skater discipline and BMD (p = 0.002), with single skaters having greater BMD in the total body, legs, and pelvis than ice dancers (p < 0.001). Pair skaters had greater pelvic BMD than ice dancers (p = 0.001).

Single and pair skaters have greater BMD than ice dancers. The osteogenic effect of physical training is most apparent in single skaters, particularly in the bone loading sites of the leg and pelvis.