Certain genes can contribute towards a person’s susceptibility to stress fracture injuries, according to a new study that may lead to a personalised health approach for this common sports injury.
A stress fracture is a fatigue-induced fracture of the bone caused by repeated pressure over time. Unlike normal fractures, stress fractures are the result of accumulated trauma from repeated mechanical usage, such as running or jumping.
Researchers from the University of Liverpool in UK aimed to identify the contribution of a specific gene, P2X7R, towards stress fracture injuries in two groups of volunteers made up of military recruits and elite athletes.
Previously they had shown that mutations in this gene are associated with low lumbar spine bone mineral density and accelerated bone loss in post-menopausal women.
The study found that two specific variations within the gene were associated with stress fracture injuries in healthy, exercising individuals.
The precise mechanism by which these variations may influence stress fracture risk is unknown but may include decreased sensitivity of bone to mechanical loading or adverse changes to specific bone cells, researchers said.
“The genetic predisposition to develop a stress fracture is still a relatively new research area and our understanding of the risks that predispose individuals to develop a stress fracture is still very limited,” said Jim Gallagher from University of Liverpool in UK.
The findings are the first to demonstrate an independent association between stress fracture injury and specific variations in purinergic receptor genes, researchers said.
Stress fractures are common injuries for athletes and military personnel. The effect of heavy repeated mechanical usage causes an amalgamation of micro-damage in bone.
The body responds to this through a process known as ‘boneremodelling’, in which damaged bone is removed and healthy bone is deposited. Bone remodelling occurs continuously through our lives and helps us keep our bones healthy. The findings were published in The Official Journal of the International Purine Club University of Liverpool.