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30-03-2011 | Bone health | Article

Scuba diving does not impact bone health

Abstract

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MedWire News: Scuba diving does not influence bone mineral density (BMD) or bone mineral content (BMC), results of a Polish study show.

"Scuba diving is a very specialized physical activity that exposes bones to specific stresses," write Bozena Czarkowska-Paczek and colleagues from the Medical University of Warsaw.

They explain that water pressure exerts a load on bones during diving that helps augment bone mineralization, and could therefore increase BMD and BMC, protecting against osteoporosis.

On the other hand, divers experience weightlessness similar to that experienced in space or during prolonged bed rest, which could lead to increased loss of bone minerals, decreased BMD and BMC, and a subsequent increased risk for osteoporosis.

Czarkowska-Paczek and team say that few studies have addressed the effects of diving on BMD and BMC, but that results have been controversial.

To investigate further, they compared BMD and BMC in a group of 16 male professional scuba divers who also worked as firemen with measurements from 14 non-diving firemen, matched by age, weight, and height.

The researchers found that neither BMD nor BMC - assessed by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry - at the whole skeleton, lumbar spine, total hip, or femoral neck differed significantly between the groups.

Furthermore, the BMD Z- and T-scores ranged from -0.5 to 0.5 standard deviations (SD) of the mean in both groups, which is within the normal category (≥ -1.0 SD) as defined by the World Health Organization.

There was also no correlation observed between total diving time (in hours) and BMD in the diving group.

Czarkowska-Paczek and co-authors note that larger studies could possibly reveal statistically significant differences between divers and non-divers, "however, based on the current results, we assume that it is unlikely," they say.

The researchers speculate, in the journal Joint Bone Spine, that the differing effects of diving on BMD, as observed in previous studies, are likely due to differences in the diving patterns studied (depth and time spent underwater).

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Laura Dean

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