Scientists are investigating bone health in elite athletes as part of a study that aims to find new ways to stave off injury. The Nottingham Trent University research, joint funded with the English Institute of Sport, will examine the effects of nutrient intake on bone health in athletes.
The researchers will focus their attention on stress fractures, a common injury in elite and professional athletes caused by repeated stress on the bone. Over time this constant loading affects the ability of the bone to repair itself, leading to micro-cracks in bones such as the tibia, metatarsals, or femur.
A stress fracture can result in at least five weeks of missed training and competitions for elite athletes.
Now researchers from the university’s School of Science and Technology intend to examine the effects of different nutrients and supplements on bone health, which haven’t previously been investigated in relation to this issue.
The study will involve the use of scanning technologies to look at changes in athletes’ bones over time.
The work hopes to uncover vital clues which could play a key role in keeping elite athletes injury-free for longer – as well as helping them to recover faster – and help to shape future nutritional intake of the UK’s elite sport stars.
“Being able to keep our elite athletes free of this type of injury, particularly in an important competition year, would be a significant achievement,” said Nottingham Trent University researcher Dr Craig Sale.
He said: “Not having to miss several weeks’ training due to an injury such as this could have a major impact in the UK’s future sporting success. Improving long-term bone health to reduce the risk of injury and speed up recovery is essential.”
Dr Kevin Currell, Head of Performance Nutrition at the English Institute of Sport, said: “Within the EIS Performance Nutrition service one of our key impact areas is giving elite athletes more time to train by tailoring their nutrition needs to do everything we can to prevent illness and injury.
“This research will help us understand more about the interaction between nutrition and bone and give us valuable knowledge which we can then apply with the athletes we work with.”