Title

Sex-specific developmental changes in muscle size and bone geometry at the femoral shaft

Publication Date

2008

Abstract

Introduction: When expressed as a percentage of the average result in young adults, bone mineral content lags behind bone length before puberty. Even though this observation has led to speculation about bone fragility in children, such relationships could simply be due to scaling effects when measures with different geometrical dimensions are compared. Methods: The study population comprised 145 healthy subjects (6–25 years, 94 females). Magnetic resonance imaging and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry were used to determine femur length, bone mineral content, cortical bone mineral density, cross-sectional bone geometry (bone diameter; cortical thickness; total, cortical and medullary areas; cross-sectional and polar moments of area; bone strength index) and muscle area at the proximal one-third site of the femur. Results were dimensionally scaled by raising two-, three- and four-dimensional variables to the power of 1/2, 1/3 and 1/4, respectively. Sex-differences were also assessed before and after functionally adjusting variables for femur length and weight or muscle size. Results: In prepubertal children, unscaled results expressed as percentages of adult values were lowest for variables with the highest dimensions (e.g., moments of area < bone mineral content < cross-sectional areas < femur length). However, when dimensionally scaled, results in children represented similar percentages of the respective average adult values, even after functional adjustments. Before puberty, there was no sex-difference in adjusted bone or muscle variables. After puberty, males had greater total and cortical bone area, bone diameter, moments of area, bone strength index and muscle area than women, both in absolute terms as well as adjusted for femur length and weight. The largest sex-difference was found for muscle area. When compared relative to muscle size, young adult women attained greater total and cortical bone area than men. Conclusions: Growth in femoral length, diameter, mass and strength appears well coordinated before puberty. Postpubertal females have narrower femora, less bone strength and muscle size than males. However, when muscle size is taken into account, females have a larger femoral bone cross-section and more cortical bone. These sex-differences likely result from a combination of mechanical and hormonal effects occurring during puberty.

Document Type

Journal Article

Access Rights

ERA Access

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