Effect of sports activity on bone mineral density in wheelchair athletes

J Bone Miner Metab. 2008;26(1):101-6. doi: 10.1007/s00774-007-0789-1. Epub 2008 Jan 10.


The present study carried out a measurement of body composition and a nutrition survey, targeting 28 male wheelchair athletes and comparing them with 25 male physically able healthy athletes as the controls. The DXA method was used to measure bone mineral density (BMD), percentage of body fat (% body fat), and lean body mass (LBM). Possible factors affecting the BMD of the wheelchair athletes with spinal injuries were analyzed including age, body part, type of sport, area of injury, length of injury, and the length of time it took before restarting sports activity after injury. BMD in the arms, body trunk, legs, and entire body was measured. There were no significant differences in the BMD of the wheelchair athletes by age group (from 20 to 29, from 30 to 39, and 40 years and older), by sports (basketball, track and field, and tennis), and by area of injury (high and low paraplegia). BMD in the legs (r = -0.549, P < 0.01), body trunk (r = -0.414, P < 0.05), and entire body (r = -0.452, P < 0.05) of the wheelchair athletes was negatively correlated with the period since injury; however, no such a relationship was observed in the arms. In addition, the multiple regression analysis for BMD of each body region showed that the earlier the wheelchair athletes restarted sports after injury, the higher values the BMD of legs (r = -0.467, P < 0.05), body trunk (r = -0.469, P < 0.05), and entire body (r = -0.488, P < 0.05), independent of age and sports. The leg BMD of the wheelchair athletes was lower than that of the physically able athletes, with a BMD 76.5% of the controls. The present study suggests that restarting sports activity in a timely manner after treatment and rehabilitation for the injury is useful in preventing loss of BMD in wheelchair athletes and ultimately improving their quality of life.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Bone Density / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Wheelchairs