Bone geometry and strength adaptations to physical constraints inherent in different sports: comparison between elite female soccer players and swimmers

J Bone Miner Metab. 2011 May;29(3):342-51. doi: 10.1007/s00774-010-0226-8. Epub 2010 Oct 21.


Sports training characterized by impacts or weight-bearing activity is well known to induce osteogenic effects on the skeleton. Less is known about the potential effects on bone strength and geometry, especially in female adolescent athletes. The aim of this study was to investigate hip geometry in adolescent soccer players and swimmers compared to normal values that stemmed from a control group. This study included 26 swimmers (SWIM; 15.9 ± 2 years) and 32 soccer players (SOC; 16.2 ± 0.7 years), matched in body height and weight. A group of 15 age-matched controls served for the calculation of hip parameter Z-scores. Body composition and bone mineral density (BMD) were assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). DXA scans were analyzed at the femoral neck by the hip structure analysis (HSA) program to calculate the cross-sectional area (CSA), cortical dimensions (inner endocortical diameter, ED; outer width and thickness, ACT), the centroid (CMP), cross-sectional moment of inertia (CSMI), section modulus (Z), and buckling ratio (BR) at the narrow neck (NN), intertrochanteric (IT), and femoral shaft (FS) sites. Specific BMDs were significantly higher in soccer players compared with swimmers. At all bone sites, every parameter reflecting strength (CSMI, Z, BR) favored soccer players. In contrast, swimmers had hip structural analysis (HSA) Z-scores below the normal values of the controls, thus denoting weaker bone in swimmers. In conclusion, this study suggests an influence of training practice not only on BMD values but also on bone geometry parameters. Sports with high impacts are likely to improve bone strength and bone geometry. Moreover, this study does not support the argument that female swimmers can be considered sedentary subjects regarding bone characteristics.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Adolescent
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Bone Density / physiology
  • Bone and Bones / anatomy & histology*
  • Bone and Bones / physiology*
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Female
  • Femur Neck / anatomy & histology
  • Femur Neck / physiology
  • Hip / anatomy & histology
  • Hip / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / anatomy & histology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiology
  • Soccer*
  • Swimming*


  • Calcium