Senior Honors Projects, 2010-2019

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)


Department of Biology


Roshna E. Wunderlich

Melissa A. Rittenhouse

Janet C. Daniel


Lower limb overuse injuries are prevalent in female athletes and can lead to significant time lost in participation. Overuse injuries such as stress fractures occur with repeated microdamage to bone, ligaments and tendons. Numerous geometric features of bone, including bone mineral density (BMD), have been associated with stress fracture risk. While Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been associated with reducing inflammation, increasing BMD, and reducing incidence of osteoporotic fractures in the elderly, no studies have addressed the role of Omega-3 PUFAs in reduction of injury risk in young individuals. Studies indicate that Omega-3 PUFAs act on cytokines to inhibit osteoclasts while also promoting osteoblasts, thereby preventing bone resorption and stimulating bone formation. We examined the hypothesis that athletes with higher circulating and dietary levels of Omega-3 PUFAs will have higher BMD and a lower history of overuse injuries, including stress fractures, than athletes with lower levels of Omega-3 PUFAs. We distributed a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) directed at collecting Omega-3 PUFAs and used dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry to measure phalangeal BMD in 125 athletes. Circulatory Omega-3 PUFAs were quantified in red blood cells of 23 athletes. Athletes with a history of overuse injuries had significantly lower percentages of circulatory Omega-3 PUFAs (p = 4.33x10-2) and significantly lower BMD (p = 2.0x10-2) than athletes with no history of overuse injury. However, we found no relationship between BMD and circulatory Omega-3 PUFAs (r2 = 6.2x10-3) and were unable to reproduce circulating levels of fatty acids with our FFQ. While these data suggest Omega-3 PUFAs may influence bone health and injury risk in young athletes, especially those engaged in sports involving repetitive loading, the factors influencing bone health in young athletes are complex. Understanding the relationships among dietary factors, musculoskeletal health and injury risk is essential to the development of prevention strategies for stress fractures and other musculoskeletal injuries.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.