Strong to the Bone - The Importance of Bone Health
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Director of Community and Public Relations
There are parts of our body we rarely consider. They provide protection and support to our bodies; deliver nutrients; they even help form our face and body shapes. We have 206 of these important organs, yet somehow, we forget to pay attention to them, especially when we are young!
Bone Health in Young Athletes
Typically, we don’t think about our bones until they start causing pain. What many of us don’t realize is that a little extra “bone TLC” in our youth will make our bodies much healthier in our golden years.
Dr. John Harris, an orthopedic surgeon and physician on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center says stress fractures, often due to overtraining, are the most common clinical bone health problem he sees in young athletes. “These injuries are not only painful and frustrating to deal with, they can require surgical interventions and significant amounts of time off from sports to heal.” However, bones strengthen themselves in response to the load they are put under. Dr. Harris says the more they are reasonably exerted, the stronger they become. “Exercise is critical,” he stresses.
Impact of Low Vitamin D & Arthritis
Vitamin D, which is received through sun exposure and diet, is important as well. Dr. Harris has seen a concerning trend in low vitamin D levels among young athletes and children. “(They) spend more time indoors, getting less sun exposure and a good majority have a typical, subpar adolescent diet,” he says. “Thankfully, most young athletes are healthy individuals with good to excellent bone health.”
He says young athletes who sustain an injury could later suffer from negative consequences such as early onset of arthritis. However, he emphasizes the benefits of physical activity are numerous and well documented. “Not only are the short-term health benefits large, but the habits created with physical activity, if carried on in life, can help prevent many health issues.” For example, he says research indicates that long distance runners, who are able to avoid serious injuries to their joints, will have significantly thicker joint cartilage than other individuals. “This is certainly a good thing!”
How to Promote Healthy Bones
While involvement in high contact sports like football or soccer, and family history play significant roles in bone health, Dr. Harris emphasizes this should not discourage anyone from exercising or playing sports. The benefits are far more numerous.
How can we keep our bones healthy and prevent future problems? Dr. Harris suggests three tips:
1) Eat a well-balanced diet, not a great deal of junk food.
2) Train properly, with the supervision of educated trainers or coaches, if possible.
3) Should an injury occur, follow directed rehabilitation instructions from your physician and therapist.
So today, try and eat a healthy meal, get out in the sun and run! Your bones will thank you for it.
Don’t have an orthopaedic physician? Visit MethodistHealthSystem.org/FindADoctor or call 877-637-4297 today.
Texas law prohibits hospitals from practicing medicine. The physicians on the Methodist Health System medical staff are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of Methodist Health System or Methodist Mansfield Medical Center.