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Keywords:

  • Artistic Gymnastics;
  • bone mineral content;
  • childhood;
  • Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry;
  • Recreational

Abstract

Competitive female gymnasts have greater bone mineral measures than nongymnasts. However, less is known about the effect of recreational and/or precompetitive gymnastics participation on bone development. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the differences previously reported in the skeleton of competitive female gymnasts are also demonstrated in young children with a current or past participation history in recreational or precompetitive gymnastics. One hundred and sixty-three children (30 gymnasts, 61 ex-gymnasts, and 72 nongymnasts) between 4 and 6 years of age were recruited and measured annually for 4 years (not all participants were measured at every occasion). Total-body (TB), lumbar spine (LS), and femoral neck (FN) bone mineral content (BMC) were measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Multilevel random-effects models were constructed and used to predict differences in TB, LS, and FN BMC between groups while controlling for differences in body size, physical activity, and diet. Gymnasts had 3% more TB and 7% more FN BMC than children participating in other recreational sports at year 4 (p < .05). No differences were found at the LS between groups, and there were no differences between ex-gymnasts' and nongymnasts' bone parameters (p > .05). These findings suggest that recreational and precompetitive gymnastics participation is associated with greater BMC. This is important because beginner gymnastics skills are attainable by most children and do not require a high level of training. Low-level gymnastics skills can be implemented easily into school physical education programs, potentially affecting skeletal health. © 2011 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.