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Keywords:

  • detraining;
  • bone mineral content;
  • tennis;
  • exercise;
  • osteoporosis

Abstract

This prospective 5-year follow-up study of 64 adult female racquet sports players and 27 controls assessed the changes in the playing-to-nonplaying arm bone mineral content (BMC) differences to answer three questions: (1) Are training-induced bone gains lost with decreased training? (2) Is the bone response to decreased training different if the playing career has been started before or at puberty rather than after it? (3) Are the possible bone changes related to the changes in training? The players were divided into two groups according to the starting age of their tennis or squash playing. The mean starting age was 10.5 years (SD, 2.2) among the players who had started training before or at menarche (young starters; n = 36) while 26.4 years (SD, 8.0) among those players who had begun training a minimum of 1 year after menarche (old starters; n = 28). At baseline of the 5-year follow-up, the mean age of the young starters was 21.6 years (SD, 7.6) and that of old starters was 39.4 years (SD, 10.5). During the follow-up, the young starters had reduced the average training frequency from 4.7 times a week (2.7) to 1.4 times a week (1.3) and the old starters from 4.0 times a week (1.4) to 2.0 times a week (1.4), respectively. The 5-year follow-up revealed that despite reduced training the exercise-induced bone gain was well maintained in both groups of players regardless of their clearly different starting age of activity and different amount of exercise-induced bone gain. The gain was still 1.3–2.2 times greater in favor of the young starters (at the follow-up, the dominant-to-nondominant arm BMC difference was 22% [8.4] in the humeral shaft of the young starters versus 10% [3.8] in the old starters, and 3.5% [2.4] in controls). In the players, changes in training were only weakly related to changes in the side-to-side BMC difference (rs = 0.05–0.34, all NS), and this was true even among the players who had stopped training completely a minimum 1 year before the follow-up. In conclusion, if controlled interventions will confirm our findings that an exercise-induced bone gain can be well maintained with decreased activity and that the maintenance of the bone gain is independent of the starting age of activity, exercise can be recommended for preventing osteoporosis and related fractures.