Bone Health in Athletes

Sports Health. Mar/Apr 2017;9(2):108-117. doi: 10.1177/1941738116677732. Epub 2016 Nov 30.


Context: The health of the skeletal system is important for athletes young and old. From the early benefits of exercise on bones to the importance of osteoporosis prevention and treatment, bone health affects the ability to be active throughout life.

Evidence acquisition: PubMed articles dating from 1986 to 2016 were used for the review. Relevant terms such as keywords and section titles of the article were searched and articles identified were reviewed for relevance to this article.

Study design: Clinical review.

Level of evidence: Levels 1 through 4 evidence included.

Results: There is strong evidence that exercise benefits bone health at every age and is a critical factor in osteoporosis prevention and treatment. Vitamin D, calcium, and hormones play vital roles in ensuring optimal bone health. When there is an imbalance between exercise and nutrition, as seen in the female athlete triad, bone health is compromised and can lead to bone stress injuries and early osteoporosis. Both of these can lead to morbidity and lost time from training and competition. Thus, early recognition and appropriate treatment of the female athlete triad and other stress fracture risk factors are vital to preventing long-term bone health problems.

Conclusion: To optimize bone health, adequate nutrition, appropriate weightbearing exercise, strength training, and adequate calcium and vitamin D are necessary throughout life.

Keywords: bone health; exercise; hormones; stress fractures; vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Density / physiology*
  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Female Athlete Triad Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Female Athlete Triad Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Fractures, Stress / physiopathology
  • Fractures, Stress / prevention & control
  • Hormones / physiology
  • Humans
  • Osteoporosis / physiopathology
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control
  • Risk Factors
  • Sports Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / physiopathology
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / prevention & control


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Hormones
  • Vitamin D