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Bone Health Basics

Why Talk About Bone Health?

When thinking about the health of our bodies in and out of sport, it is important to consider the entire body, all the way down to the skeleton. Bones play a big role in the body as they provide support for movement, protection of internal organs, creation of new blood cells, and control of minerals like calcium and phosphate. 

 

Bone Remodeling 

Throughout our entire lives, the bones in our bodies are constantly adapting and changing. Bones are continuously remodeling in response to stressors like exercise and training as well as normal bone turnover. This process involves the removal of old or damaged bone and the replacement of new bone. Our bodies go through this process as an adaptation to the mechanical load and strain of everything we do from basic daily tasks to bigger movement efforts in sport.

Breaking It Down 

The remodeling process involves different types of cells. The two major cell types that work together to repair bone are Osteoclasts and Osteoblasts. The osteoclasts and osteoblasts communicate with each other via direct cell to cell contact. 

 

  • Osteoclasts
  • Osteoblasts

Osteoclasts – Bone Consumers

Osteoclasts are cells in charge of consuming or resorbing bone. Their role is to remove old or damaged parts of bone. They are signaled by the body to the surface of the damaged bone. They then resorb, or consume, the damaged bone.

Osteoblasts – Bone Builders

Osteoblasts are cells in charge of bone building, or forming. They are found in clusters along the surface of the bone that they are working on forming. After osteoclasts (consumers) have done their job, osteoblasts (builders) are recruited to create new and repaired bone. 

Low Energy Availability and Bone Health

If athletes do not consume enough food to match their energy expenditures, chronic low energy availability or overtraining can lead to low bone density and even bone stress injuries, including stress reactions and fractures. Fueling to match exercise volume will allow your body to respond to those stressors in a healthy way and will help you build strong bones. This is particularly true in younger athletes, as this is peak bone-building time and most of our bone mass will be created in our 20’s. Physical activity in childhood and through adulthood helps the body maximize and maintain bone mass throughout our lives. 

The Menstrual Cycle and Bone Health

If athletes are not consuming enough fuel to account for energy expenditures through exercise and are energy deficient, they may experience oligomenorrhea or amenorrhea.* When the reproductive system is shut down and an athlete’s period stops, estrogen levels begin to drop and other hormone levels are affected. Estrogen helps regulate periods and plays a major role in maintaining bone health by preventing excessive bone breakdown. If bones are not being rebuilt to match the rate of breakdown, an athlete can be at risk for low bone density and potentially bone stress injuries and/or osteoporosis.

*see our post on the menstrual cycle to learn more about these terms

 

Next Up On Bone Health…

This information just scratches the surface on all there is to know about bone health. Stay tuned for more sports science information on topics like bone stress injuries, fueling considerations, and hormonal contraception. What other topics do you want to read more about? Email us to let us know!

More Questions? 

Remember, your health is unique to you. If you have further questions about your bone health, we recommend asking your primary care provider.

 

 

 

 

Sources 

Ackerman KE, Misra M. Bone health and the female athlete triad in adolescent athletes. Phys Sportsmed. 2011 Feb;39(1):131-41. doi: 10.3810/psm.2011.02.1871. PMID: 21378496; PMCID: PMC3669399.

Feng, Xu, and Jay M McDonald. “Disorders of bone remodeling.” Annual review of pathology vol. 6 (2011): 121-45. doi:10.1146/annurev-pathol-011110-130203

Kim JM, Lin C, Stavre Z, Greenblatt MB, Shim JH. Osteoblast-Osteoclast Communication and Bone Homeostasis. Cells. 2020 Sep 10;9(9):2073. doi: 10.3390/cells9092073. PMID: 32927921; PMCID: PMC7564526.

Raggatt LJ, Partridge NC. Cellular and molecular mechanisms of bone remodeling. J Biol Chem. 2010 Aug 13;285(33):25103-8. doi: 10.1074/jbc.R109.041087. Epub 2010 May 25. PMID: 20501658; PMCID: PMC2919071.

Male and Female Athlete Triad Coalition: https://www.femaleandmaleathletetriad.org/athletes/your-bone-health/

 

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