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Lower Extremity Overuse Bone Injury Risk Factors in Collegiate Athletes: A Pilot Study.   

Authors: Reinking M, Austin TM, Bennett J, Hayes AM, Mitchell WA

There is limited evidence regarding risk factors for lower extremity overuse bone injury (LEOBI) in collegiate athletes. The purposes of the study were to: 1) determine incidence of LEOBI in selected sports and its impact on athletic participation and ADL, 2) assess risk relationships between LEOBI and selected risk factors, and 3) establish the viability of using calcaneal densitometry as a screening tool to identify risk for LEOBI. 84 athletes (64 female, 20 male) consented to participate.  Over the study period, eight athletes (one male, seven females) were diagnosed with LEOBI (LEOBI group), five with stress fractures and three with medial tibial stress syndrome. The other 76 athletes who did not have a diagnosis of LEOBI were placed in the non-LEOBI group. Five of the eight were cross-country/track athletes; no swimming/diving athletes had bone injury. Sport (cross-country/track) had a significant relative risk value of 2.26 (95% CI = 1.18-4.32) for LEOBI. There was no association between LEOBI occurrence and sex, hip abductor strength, body mass index, foot type, and menstrual function. There was no difference in bone mineral density at initial or follow-up measures between LEOBI and non-LEOBI groups (p>.05) when analyzing all athletes.  When analyzing ground-based athletes only at follow-up (n=44), athletes with LEOBI had lower bone mineral density of right (p = .05) and left (p =.07) calcaneus.  The relative risk for developing LEOBI based on calcaneal bone mineral density below the mean of the study participants was 2.1 (95%CI = 1.09-3.35) on the left and 1.53 (95% CI=.80- 3.06) on the right. The authors concluded that the incidence of LEOBI in this population of athletes was approximately 10%. Risk factors were sport (cross-country/track) and decreased left calcaneal bone mineral density. This study supports the use of calcaneal bone mineral density as a screening measurement for LEOBI risk and suggests the need for further investigation into additional LEOBI risk factors.

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