Increased density and periosteal expansion of the tibia in young adult men following short-term arduous training

Rachel M. Izard, William D. Fraser, Charles Negus, Craig Sale, Julie P. Greeves

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Purpose: Few human studies have reported early structural adaptations of bone to weight-bearing exercise, which provide a greater contribution to improved bone strength than increased density. This prospective study examined site- and regional-specific adaptations of the tibia during arduous training in a cohort of male military (infantry) recruits to better understand how bone responds in vivo to mechanical loading. 
Methods: Tibial bone density and geometry were measured in 90 British Army male recruits (ages 21 + 3 y, height 1.78 ± 0.06 m, body mass 73.9 + 9.8 kg) in weeks 1 (Baseline) and 10 of initial military training. Scans were performed at the 4%, 14%, 38% and 66% sites, measured from the distal end plate, using pQCT (XCT2000L, Stratec Pforzheim, Germany). Customised software (BAMPack, L-3 ATI) was used to examine whole bone cross-section and regional sectors. T-tests determined significant differences between time points (P<0.05). 
Results: Bone density of trabecular and cortical compartments increased significantly at all measured sites. Bone geometry (cortical area and thickness) and bone strength (i, MMi and BSI) at the diaphyseal sites (38 and 66%) were also significantly higher in week 10. Regional changes in density and geometry were largely observed in the anterior, medial-anterior and anterior-posterior sectors. Calf muscle density and area (66% site) increased significantly at week 10 (P<0.01). 
Conclusions: In vivo mechanical loading improves bone strength of the human tibia by increased density and periosteal expansion, which varies by site and region of the bone. These changes may occur in response to the nature and distribution of forces originating from bending, torsional and shear stresses of military training. These improvements are observed early in training when the osteogenic stimulus is sufficient, which may be close to the fracture threshold in some individuals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-19
Number of pages7
Early online date31 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


  • pQCT
  • Exercise
  • Loading
  • Density
  • Geometry
  • Tibia

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