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Low Vitamin D Increases Injuries in Elite Athletes

4/10/2018 1:48:22 PM
Vitamin D influences calcium absorption, fracture risk, and muscle function. Low levels of vitamin D may increase susceptibility to injury by adversely affecting muscle contractility and causing muscle fiber atrophy. A study published in The Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery in 2017 evaluated the association between serum vitamin D level and the prevalence of lower extremity muscle strains and core muscle injuries in elite level college athletes at the annual NFL Scouting Combine.
A retrospective case series was performed, using data from 214 professional athletes who participated in the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine and had serum vitamin D levels tested at that time. The primary outcome measure was any injury history.
Low serum vitamin D (25[OH]D < 32 ng/mL) was present in 59% (126) of players, including 10% (22) with severe deficiency (25[OH]D < 20 ng/mL). African-American athletes had significantly lower mean vitamin D levels that white athletes (29.5 ng/mL vs. 40.2 ng/mL; p<.001). Athletes with a positive injury history had significantly lower mean serum vitamin D levels than uninjured athletes (29.7 ng/mL vs. 34.0 ng/mL; p=.03). Of the 13 players who reported missing a game because of an injury, 86% had low vitamin D levels.
Univariate regression analysis showed that players with inadequate vitamin D levels were 86% more likely to have had a lower extremity strain or core muscle injury compared with players with adequate levels (OR=1.86; 95% CI, 1.08-3.26; p=.03). Also, players with inadequate vitamin D levels were more than 3 times as likely to have had a hamstring strain than players with adequate levels (OR=3.61; 95% CI, 1.76-7.88; p<.001). The full multivariate analysis, however, did not confirm vitamin D status to be an independent variable of injury. 
The results of this study reveal a high prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy in elite athletes and show that players with a history of injury have a higher prevalence of inadequate vitamin D. Routine screening and treatment of vitamin D inadequacy should be a priority in this population.

Rebolledo BJ, Bernard JA, Werner BC et al. The Association of Vitamin D Status in Lower Extremity Muscle Strains and Core Muscle Injuries at the National Football League Combine. Arthroscopy. 2017