Broken bones in childhood can be a warning sign of future risks of fractures and osteoporosis.
The history of previous fractures is one of the strongest predictors of future fractures, but the current guidelines used to determine osteoporosis risk ignore childhood fractures.
Kim Meredith Jones, a senior researcher at the University of Otago, studied the history of fractures in a group of middle-aged people who are participating in the Dunedin Study, a complex project that has been going on for five decades.
Researchers found that people who broke a bone more than once as children were twice as likely to break a bone as adults. In women, it also resulted in a decrease in hip bone density at age 45.
Previous research has shown that children with fractures tend to live in poor families, have high levels of physical activity, are overweight or have a high body mass index, vitamin D deficiency, low calcium intake, and may experience physical abuse. Children who break frequently may also have particularly fragile skeletons and may be “accident prone” or their bones may break during sports or physical activity.
But the important question is whether children who break bones experience a temporary decrease in bone strength during rapid growth, or whether the weakening of the bones continues into adulthood. All the people we studied are part of the unique Dunedin Study, which tracked the development of 1,000 children born in Dunedin between April 1972 and March 1973.
Since then, study participants have been assessed again and again every few years on a wide range of topics, including but not limited to risky behavior, participation in sports activities, physical abuse, and deprivation of children and adults.
They also had multiple face-to-face interviews to learn about injuries, including fractures, from childhood. This means that we can compare the history of medical fractures in middle age with their childhood memories.
It is important to note that since the Dunedin study also collects comprehensive information on other factors that may explain why some children have frequent fractures, we can include these aspects in our analysis.
Both boys and girls who had more than one fracture in childhood were more than twice as likely to have a fracture.
In women, childhood fractures have been associated with lower hip bone mineral density later in life, but not in men.
Several other studies have attempted to determine whether children who have suffered a single fracture in childhood experience skeletal fragility that persists into adulthood.
Persistent risk was not associated with other behavioral factors such as risk behavior, demographics, obesity, child abuse, or sports participation.
Although we do not know the exact mechanisms behind this increased risk of fractures in adulthood, the findings can be used to raise awareness among those most at risk.
Source: Science Alert