Athletic girls more likely to have impaired bone structure if menstrual cycle stops

June 6, 2011

Young female athletes who have stopped menstruating have a weakening in the quality of their bone structure that may predispose them to breaking a bone, despite getting plenty of weight-bearing exercise, a new study finds. The results will be presented Sunday at The Endocrine Society's 93rd Annual Meeting in Boston.

"Given the high number of young women and girls involved in athletic activities and the fact that up to 24% of young may lose their periods, this finding represents a significant public health concern," said Madhusmita Misra, MD, the study's principal investigator.

Misra, a pediatric endocrinologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said amenorrhea, or absence of menstruation, can result from intense physical activity, either alone or combined with inadequate intake of calories. In a previous study, Misra found that athletes who lose their periods have , a risk factor for fracture and premature osteoporosis. Because abnormal structure (microarchitecture) is a known for fractures among older women, she assessed it in the current study.

Misra and her colleagues studied 34 endurance athletes, ages 15 to 21, all of whom were involved in running or other weight-bearing activities. Sixteen athletes had no periods, and 18 had normal menstruation. The investigators studied the athletes' and bone microarchitecture, and compared these measures with those from 16 nonathletic controls. To assess bone structure, they used a form of CT scanning called high-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography.

They found that nonmenstruating athletes have a bone structure that is abnormal compared with menstruating athletes and nonathletes. Differences were seen in (the outer rim of compact bone) and in trabecular (spongy) bone at both sites studied: the tibia, or shinbone, and even a non-weight-bearing site, one of the long forearm bones near the wrist. who still got their menstrual periods did not have impaired bone structure, the researchers reported.

"Our results are of particular concern to teenagers and young women, who are at a time in their lives when they should be actively accumulating bone and optimizing peak bone mass," she said.

Peak bone mass, the amount of bone present at the end of skeletal maturity, is usually achieved by the mid-20s and is an important factor in determining future bone health.

The study, which was funded by the National Institute of Child Health Development, also found that later age at starting menstruation was associated with a greater chance of impairments.

"Bone microarchitecture may provide information regarding bone health independent of bone mineral density," Misra said. "Your bone density score may not reveal the full risk of poor bone strength."

Explore further: Epilepsy drug causes bone loss in young women

Related Stories

Epilepsy drug causes bone loss in young women

April 28, 2008

Young women who took the commonly used epilepsy drug phenytoin for one year showed significant bone loss compared to women taking other epilepsy drugs, according to a study published in the April 29, 2008, issue of Neurology, ...

Gymnastic training improves bone health in girls

May 5, 2010

According to a new study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM), long-term elite rhythmic gymnastics exerts positive effects on volumetric bone density and ...

Recommended for you

Bacteria in smokeless tobacco products may be a health concern

August 26, 2016

Several species of bacteria found in smokeless tobacco products have been associated with opportunistic infections, according to a paper published August 26 in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American ...

Is tailgating toxic?

August 26, 2016

While tailgating this football season you may want to take a step back from the grill and generator—for your health.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.