Date of Award

Summer 7-15-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Dan Benardot

Second Advisor

Walt Thompson

Third Advisor

Anita Nucci


Background: Studies have not examined the relationships between serum vitamin D (SVitD), serum cortisol (SCort), bone mineral density (BMD), and body fat percent (BF%) in elite figure skaters. However, studies of non-athletes have found that BMD is inversely related to SCort and directly related to SVitD, and BF% is inversely related to SVitD and directly related to SCort. It was, therefore, the purpose of this study to assess the relationships between SCort, SVitD, BMD, and BF% in elite figure skaters. Methods: U.S. national team figure skaters were assessed at a national training camp during the summer, 2012. BMD and body composition were measured by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). Blood chemistry values for SVitD and SCort were obtained via venous puncture after an overnight fast, the same morning as the DEXA measurement. Georgia State University Institutional Review Board approval was obtained for the assessment of data collected at this training camp. Results: 24 out of 39 training camp attendees (61.5%) volunteered to be assessed as part of this study. Subjects ranged from 17 to 34 years and included males (n=11) and females (n=12). In all skaters statistically significant negative correlations (2-tailed Spearman) were found between SCort and BMD of the spine (r=-0.458, p=0.032), pelvis (r=-0.532, p=0.011), ribs (r=-0.517, p=0.014), and trunk (r=-0.538, p=0.010). In females, SCort was negatively correlated with BMD of the pelvis (r=-0.664, p=0.026) and trunk (r=-0.609, p=0.047), and was positively correlated with total BF% (r=0.657, p=0.020) and trunk fat % (r=0.708, p=0.010). In males, SCort was significantly correlated with BMD of the ribs (r=-0.627, p=0.039). The 3 skaters (all female) with SCort > 28 mcg/dL had significantly lower mean BMD of the total body, left femoral neck, legs, trunk, and pelvis, and significantly greater BF% of the total body and trunk when compared to the 20 skaters with SCort 7-28 mcg/dL. No significant correlations between SVitD and BMD or BF% were found. A Mann-Whitney U test found no significant differences in BMD and BF% between the 8 skaters with SVitD ≥ 30 ng/mL compared to the 15 skaters with SVitD < 30 ng/mL (p>0.05). Females with SVitD ≥ 30 ng/mL had significantly higher BMD (p=0.041) of the right femoral neck when compared to those with lower SVitD. Conclusions: Correlations consistently found negative associations between SCort cortisol and BMD in multiple assessment areas, particularly those composed of trabecular bone. Higher SCort was also associated with higher BF% in female skaters. Despite spending a great deal of time in indoor facilities, limiting vitamin D creation through sunlight exposure, no significant correlation between SVitD and BMD was found. Female athletes in ‘appearance’ sports, may be predisposed to restrained eating behaviors, which may be associated with elevated SCort. These findings suggest a need for further study of the interaction between SCort, BMD, and BF% in these athletes. The lack of a statistically significant relationship between SVitD and BMD suggests the need to investigate additional factors associated with bone injury risk in athletes.