Effects of a prolonged submersion on bone strength and metabolism in young healthy submariners

Calcif Tissue Int. 2010 Jan;86(1):8-13. doi: 10.1007/s00223-009-9308-9. Epub 2009 Oct 31.


Submariners taking part in prolonged missions are exposed to environmental factors that may adversely affect bone health. Among these, relatively high levels of CO(2), lack of sunlight exposure affecting vitamin D metabolism, limited physical activity, and altered dietary habits. The aims of this study were to examine the effect of a prolonged submersion (30 days) on changes in bone strength using quantitative bone speed of sound and in markers of bone metabolism that include bone turnover (BAP, PINP, TRAP5b, and CTx) and endocrine regulators (serum calcium, PTH, and 25[OH]D) in a group of 32 young healthy male submariners. The prolonged submersion led to increases in body weight and BMI and to a decrease in fitness level. There was a significant decrease in bone strength following the submersion. Speed of sound exhibited continued decline at 4 weeks after return to shore and returned to baseline levels at the 6-month follow-up. There was a significant increase in circulating calcium level. PTH and 25(OH)D levels decreased significantly. Significant decreases were observed in both TRAP5b and CTx levels, markers of bone resorption, as well as in N-terminal propeptide of type I collagen (PINP), a bone formation marker. Prolonged submersion led to a significant decrease in bone strength, accompanied by an overall decrease in bone metabolism. Bone strength was regained only 6 months after return to shore. Prevention and/or rehabilitation programs should be developed following periods of relative disuse even for young submariners. The effects of repeated prolonged submersions on bone health are yet to be determined.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Bone Density / physiology*
  • Bone Resorption / etiology
  • Bone Resorption / physiopathology
  • Bone and Bones / diagnostic imaging*
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism
  • Bone and Bones / physiopathology*
  • Carbon Dioxide / adverse effects
  • Environment
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel*
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Osteoporosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Osteoporosis / etiology
  • Osteoporosis / physiopathology*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Submarine Medicine
  • Sunlight
  • Ultrasonography
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / etiology
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / physiopathology
  • Weight Gain / physiology
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Proteins
  • Carbon Dioxide