Could a persons stress fracture risk be genetic?

Wednesday 17th February 2016
Doctors believe that athletes stress fracture risk could be genetic. Image: Thinkstock
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When dealing with stress fractures, radiographers should be aware of new research that has found a link between the risk of such injuries and people's genetics.

A study carried out by doctors at the University of Liverpool led to the discovery that some individuals who take part in sport may be more likely to suffer a stress fracture due to their DNA make-up affecting the strength of their bones.

Stress fractures occur due to a bone repeatedly being used for the same movement, leading to it experiencing something of a trauma, meaning that this type of injury is particularly common in athletes and others sportsmen and women.

Rest usually allows the body to begin the natural process of bone remodelling, which involves the fractured bone being removed and healthier bone taking its place.

However, new research suggests that some people's bodies may have to be better at this than others, as they are more likely to suffer a stress fracture due to their genes.

Doctors identified that mutations affecting the P2X7R gene often lead to lower bone mineral density, while they also contributed to increase bone loss in post-menopausal women.

Study author Professor Jim Gallagher commented: "The findings are the first to demonstrate an independent association between stress fracture injury and specific variations in purinergic receptor genes.

"This work builds on pioneering basic laboratory research over several years in which we first showed that purinergic receptors are expressed in bone cells and that they regulate the response of bone to mechanical loading."

With this discovery in mind, radiographers may have to take fracture patients' genetic make-up into account when diagnosing and treating them, to prevent them from suffering further similar injuries in the future.

What's more, doctors believe that this new research could offer an explanation as to why some seemingly fit and healthy people suffer stress fractures more regularly than others.

Written by Megan Smith

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