DXA for body composition assessment: practicalities and limitations in athlete populations

Kristen MacKenzie, Kelly Stewart

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractResearch


Dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is used extensively to measure bone mineral density. Recently, DXA has been increasingly used to monitor absolute and region specific body composition. While DXA is useful for monitoring changes in lean and fat mass (Nana, Slater et al. 2012), in athletes there are several considerations for its use.

DXA is a reliable indicator of body composition when standardised protocols are followed (Nana, Slater et al. 2012). Previous research has validated techniques in obese subjects (Tataranni and Ravussin 1995; Brownbill and Ilich 2005; Rothney, Brychta et al. 2009; Evans, Misic et al. 2010) but very few studies have been undertaken in athletes, who may be taller and/or wider than the DXA scanner. A recent study in elite Australian athletes demonstrated the multiple scan technique on wide athletes with success (Nana, Slater et al. 2012), however found inherent challenges with tall athletes. Another study documented the importance of standardising daily activities before DXA measurements (Nana, Slater et al 2012a). This report aims to discuss the methodological challenges when performing DXA measurements on athletes and some standardisation techniques being utilised by the researchers.

It is important for sports practitioners to understand the strengths and limitations of DXA to ensure it is used effectively and appropriately.

Conclusions and take home message
Standardised protocols are crucial when measuring athletes. Further validation of techniques would be beneficial.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - May 2013
Externally publishedYes
Event42nd Annual Sports Medicine Australia QLD State Conference - Brisbane, Australia
Duration: 11 May 201311 May 2013
Conference number: 42nd


Conference42nd Annual Sports Medicine Australia QLD State Conference
Abbreviated titleSMA


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