Changes in Cervical Spine Bone Mineral Density in Response to Flight Training
Background: High magnitude loads and unusual loading regimes are two important determinants for increasing bone mass. Past research demonstrated that positive Gz-induced loading, providing high loads in an unaccustomed manner, had an osteogenic effect on bone. Another determinant of bone mass is that the bone response to loading is site specific. This study sought to further investigate the site specific bone response to loading, examining the cervical spine response, the site suspected of experiencing the greatest loading, to high performance flight.
Methods: Bone mineral density (BMD) and bone mineral content (BMC) was monitored in 9 RAAF trainee fighter pilots completing an 8-mo flight training course on a PC-9 and 10 age-height-weight-matched controls.
Results: At completion of the course, the pilots had a significant increase in cervical spine BMD and total body BMC. No significant changes were found for the control group.
Conclusions: This study demonstrated that the physical environment associated with flight training may have contributed to a significant increase in cervical spine bone mass in the trainee PC-9 pilots. The increase in bone mass was possibly a response to the strain generated by the daily wearing of helmet and mask assembly under the influence of positive sustained accelerative forces.
Naumann, F. L., Grant, M. C., & Dhaliwal, S. S. (2004). Changes in cervical spine bone mineral density in response to flight training. Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine, 75(3), 255-259.