Participation in the organized sport during childhood and adolescence is associated with bone mass at 20 years of age, according to a Journal of Bone and Mineral Research study

In the study that followed 984 children into young adulthood, males who were 'consistent sport participators' from ages 5-17 years had significantly greater whole body and leg bone mineral content at age 20 years than those who dropped out of sport, whereas males who 'joined sports' had significantly greater leg bone mineral content than those who dropped out of sport.

Whole?body bone mineral content

Participation in an organized sport was recorded by parental report at ages 5, 8, 10, 14, and 17 years in 984 offspring (48% female) of a pregnancy cohort (Raine Study). The latent class analysis identified three trajectory classes in each sex.

In females, these were “consistent sport participators” (48%), “dropouts” (34%), and “non?participators” (18%); in males, “consistent sport participators” (55%), “dropouts” (37%), and “sport joiners” (8%). Whole?body bone mineral content (BMC) at age 20 years was assessed by dual?energy X?ray absorptiometry (DXA).

At age 20 years, after adjustment for covariates measured at age 20 years, including height, lean mass, physical activity, calcium intake, serum 25?hydroxyvitamin D, alcohol, and smoking, males who were “consistent sport participators” had significantly greater whole?body and leg BMC than those who dropped out of sport (p < 0.001), whereas males who joined sports had significantly greater leg BMC than those who dropped out of sport (p = 0.002).

Females who were 'consistent sports participators' had significantly greater leg bone mineral content at 20 years of age than those who dropped out. Because attainment of optimal peak bone mass in young adulthood is protective against osteoporosis later in life, participation in organized sport may have long-term skeletal benefits.

"Targeted messages to young males and females that discourage dropping out of the sport and encourage joining sport—even in adolescence—are important for the benefits of skeletal health," said lead author Dr. Joanne McVeigh, of Curtin University, in Australia.