Study finds vitamin D deficiency could increase chance of muscle injury in athletes

SAN DIEGO — Vitamin D deficiency may increase the chance of muscle injuries in elite athletes, specifically NFL football players, suggested a recent study presented last week at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s annual meeting.

“Eighty percent of the football team we studied had vitamin D insufficiency. African-American players and players who suffered muscle injuries had significantly lower levels,” stated Michael Shindle, lead researcher and member of Summit Medical Group. 

Researchers identified 89 football players from a single NFL team and provided laboratory testing of vitamin D levels in spring 2010 as part of routine preseason evaluations. The mean age of the players was 25. The team provided data to determine the number of players who had lost time due to muscle injuries. Vitamin D levels then were classified based on player race and time lost due to muscle injury. 

Twenty-seven players had deficient levels, and an additional 45 had levels consistent with insufficiency. Seventeen players had values within normal limits. The mean vitamin D level in white players was 30.3 ng/mL, while the mean level for black players was 20.4 ng/mL. Sixteen players suffered a muscle injury with a mean vitamin D level of 19.9. 

“Screening and treatment of vitamin D insufficiency in professional athletes may be a simple way to help prevent injuries,” stated Scott Rodeo, co-chief of the Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

“Further research also needs to be conducted in order to determine if increasing vitamin D leads to improved maximum muscle function,” added Joseph Lane, director of the Metabolic Bone Disease Service at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

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