Are Energy Deficient Male Runners at Fractures Risk?

Male runners, including recreational runners, who do not obtain adequate nutrition and caloric intake to optimize hormones, body composition, and bone health, may be at an increased risk for stress fractures.

Female athletes with undernutrition are at risk for low bone density and stress fractures, said Melanie S. Haines, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Mass. “However, it is unclear whether a similar process occurs in male athletes,” she added.

‘The Endocrine Society recognizes several risk factors for poor bone strength in young men, including low body weight or losing too much weight, diets low in calcium, low vitamin D and testosterone levels, and eating disorders.’

The researchers enrolled 15 male runners and 16 male non-athlete controls, aged 16-30 years. They assessed their bone density, body composition and blood hormone levels.

They found that bone density of the tibial cortex, or outer shell of bone of the lower leg, was lower in athletes than controls. This may increase the risk for stress fractures in male runners, which occur in this outer shell of bone.

Poor Bone Health in Male Runners

Lower weight and muscle mass and lower levels of hormone associated with fat mass (such as leptin and estrogen) were associated with lower bone strength in the lower leg.


“We suspect that a subset of male runners may not be fueling their bodies with enough nutrition and calories for their high level of physical activity. The undernutrition that results negatively affects hormones and bone. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D is not enough to overcome other macronutrient and micronutrient deficiencies,” Haines notes.

Hormones are essential for bone health and strength. Abnormal hormone levels can contribute to low bone density and increased fracture risk.

Source: Eurekalert


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