Did You Know? – December 2011

How healthy are your bones? Adolescent dancers are at risk for bone injuries. How can you help to avoid them?

As health care practitioners we look at and care for the entire body to assist in keeping our athletes healthy. Sometimes that means we need to “look” inside the patient’s body to ensure their healthy return or continuation of their sport.

The bone health of dancers has long been a topic of concern. Common issues that plague dancers include poor nutrition, eating disorders and excessive training. These issues can lead to hormone imbalance, delayed menses, or amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle), which can frequently cause sub-optimal bone mineral density in young dancers.

Bones are comprised of calcium and other minerals, which give it strength and a matrix of collagen and other proteins, which give the bone some flexibility. Levels of calcium in the blood control the release of parathyroid hormone (PTH) in the body. As levels of calcium in the blood drop, PTH is released into the blood, causing a leaching of calcium from bones into the bloodstream to support other bodily functions.

Fifty to sixty percent of bone mass is developed during puberty, usually during the ages of 11 and 15. If the body is regularly leaching calcium from the bones due to low blood levels the dancer can be immediately more prone to stress fractures and deformation of bone as well as osteopenia and osteoporosis in the future.>[?

While calcium is the primary nutrient needed for bone development and maintenance, there are several other nutrients that assist with calcium absorption and bone health. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption and has been a real hot topic for many health issues in the past several years. Many Doctors are prescribing vitamin D immediately if there is a concern for low calcium levels in young athletes as well as in combination with calcium supplements for adults who have osteoporosis or osteopenia. Protein and vitamin C stimulate collagen matrix formation. Magnesium increases calcium absorption. Phosphorus helps in the formation of normal bone. Potassium contributes to proper acid balance in the blood, and to nerve conduction and muscle contraction and vitamin K contributes to the production of collagen.

You can increase your intake of bone benefiting nutrients by eating plenty of foods in the following the chart below:

Nutrient Sources
Calcium Yogurt, cheeses, broccoli, collards, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, bok choy or Chinese cabbage, salmon, sardines, tofu
Phosphorus Meat, milk
Potassium All meats, fish, soy, veggie burgers, broccoli, peas, lima beans, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, citrus fruits, cantaloupe, bananas, kiwi-fruit, prunes, apricots, milk, yogurt, nuts
Vitamin C Green peppers, citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, turnip greens and other leafy greens, sweet and white potatoes, cantaloupe, papaya, mango, watermelon, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, winter squash, red peppers, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and pineapples

There are several environmental factors that may diminish bone density and mineral absorption. These environmental and dietary factors are: high caffeine or alcohol intake, smoking and seizure medication. Foods that may inhibit calcium absorption and should be eaten in moderation are: eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, and to a lesser extent, sweet potatoes, okra, collards, berries, chard, tea and minimally from chocolate.

Hopefully this gives you a greater insight to the importance of diet on bone health and how you can stay healthy as a dancer.

Good Luck and Safe Dancing


  1. Robson B., Chertoff A. Bone Health and Female Dancers: Physical and Nutritional Guidelines. www.iadms.org 26 Dec 2010