Pathophysiology of bone loss in the female athlete

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Sep:1205:45-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05681.x.


Low bone mass is frequent among female athletes. The "female athlete triad" is a term that describes the interaction among energy availability, menstrual function, and bone metabolism that may lead to amenorrhea and osteopenia or osteoporosis. The main pathophysiologic mechanisms that lead to low bone mass in female athletes are low energy availability and functional hypothalamic amenorrhea. Increased energy expenditure and/or decreased energy intake, as well as the presence of eating disorders, are associated with low bone mass. In addition, menstrual dysfunction is quite common, especially among athletes competing in sports favoring leanness, and also associates with low bone mass. Screening for bone loss in female athletes should take place in the presence of amenorrhea or body mass index <18 kg/m(2) . Management of low bone mass aims to restore normal energy availability and nutritional habits. Hormone replacement therapy has no effect in abnormally underweight patients unless normal eating behaviors are restored.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes*
  • Bone Resorption / diagnosis
  • Bone Resorption / etiology*
  • Bone Resorption / therapy
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / physiology
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Sex Factors


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones