Mobility patterns affect the loads placed on the lower limbs during locomotion and may influence variation in lower limb diaphyseal robusticity and shape. This relationship commonly forms the basis for inferring mobility patterns from hominin fossil and skeletal remains. This study assesses the correspondence between athletic histories, varying by loading intensity, repetition and directionality, measured using a recall questionnaire, and peripheral quantitative computed tomography-derived measurements of tibial diaphysis rigidity and shape. Participants included male university varsity cross-country runners (n = 15), field hockey players (n = 15), and controls (n = 20) [mean age: 22.1 (SD +/- 2.6) years]. Measurements of tibial rigidity (including J, %CA, Imax, Imin, and average cortical thickness) of both runners and field hockey players were greater than controls (P < or = 0.05). Differences in tibial shape (Imax/Imin, P < or = 0.05) between runners and hockey players reflect pronounced maximum plane (Imax) rigidity in runners, and more symmetrical hypertrophy (Imax, Imin) among hockey players. This corresponds with the generally unidirectional locomotor patterns of runners, and the multidirectional patterns of hockey players. These results support the relationship between mobility and tibial diaphysis morphology as it is generally interpreted in the anthropological literature, with greater levels of mobility associated with increased diaphyseal robusticity and shape variation. Although exercise intensity may be the primary influence on these properties, the repetitiveness of the activity also deserves consideration. In conclusion, bone morphological patterns can reflect habitual behaviors, with adaptation to locomotor activities likely contributing to variation in tibial rigidity and shape properties in archaeological and fossil samples.
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