How to boost bone development in adolescent boys? Play football


Compared to swimming and cycling, playing football helps boost bone development, a new study by University of Exeter scientists has found.

According to Reporter Expert, researchers carried out a year long study of 116 boys aged 12-14 wherein they took a variety of measures including bone mineral content (BMC). BMC measurements were taken at the lumbar spine (lower back) and femoral neck (upper leg) – both key sites for both fractures and osteoporosis. The results showed footballers had higher BMC than swimmers and cyclists after one year of sport-specific training. For example, footballers’ BMC was 7{7b1a8a58d3ffe2d8e535e80e794d8bc0bf06a3ecc0c2050b83ca37784c6fddca} higher than that of cyclists at the lumbar spine, and 5{7b1a8a58d3ffe2d8e535e80e794d8bc0bf06a3ecc0c2050b83ca37784c6fddca} higher at the femoral neck.

The study compared adolescent footballers to swimmers, cyclists and a control group of boys not involved in regular sport to determiner which sport led to significantly better bones after one year of training.

“Our research shows that playing football can improve bone development in comparison to swimming and cycling,” said first author Dimitris Vlachopoulos, of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter. “Though we focussed on aspiring professionals who played as much as nine hours a week, playing football for three hours a week might be enough for a substantial effect.”

The athletes in the study were all playing high-level sport – the footballers in Exeter City FC’s youth setup, and the swimmers and cyclists at leading clubs in the South West.

The boys in the control group, though generally active, were not involved in regular sport.

Despite the many health benefits of cycling and swimming, the study found little difference in bone development between cyclists, swimmers and the control group.


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