football player catches a touchdown pass

Vitamin D is critical for muscle as well as bone strength. A study of elite college football players found that nearly half of them had suboptimal vitamin D levels. This may make them more vulnerable to serious muscle injury during play.

A Study That Uncovered Suboptimal Vitamin D Levels:

More than 200 college athletes taking part in the National Football League Scouting Combine were included in the study. Vitamin D levels were measured from blood samples. These were classified as normal if they were 32 ng/mL or above, insufficient if they were between 20 and 31 ng/mL and deficient if they were below 20 ng/mL.

More than half of these active young men had vitamin D levels below 31 ng/mL, including 10 percent of them (22 players) who had a severe deficiency. Researchers also collected information on whether the athletes had needed to sit out one or more games due to muscle injury. More than four-fifths of those players had low vitamin D levels.

Adequate Vitamin D May Help Protect Athletes from Muscle Injury:

This study establishes an association rather than a cause and effect relationship. Nonetheless, injury is a big deal for these college athletes who aspire to play in the NFL. Perhaps football players and their coaches should pay more attention to vitamin D, especially during the winter when sun exposure is scanty.

Presented at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Annual Meeting, March 16, 2017

If you would like to learn more about vitamin D and whether you too might be at risk of injury, we recommend our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency.

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  1. V. Davis

    It appears that this study was presented 2 years ago in 2015, not to diminish the importance of the information. In fact, I was trying to find the abstract for further study. Looks like this year’s presentation on Vitamin D at the AAOS San Diego Conference was on hip fractures. Please correct me if I am mistaken! Thank you.

  2. J J
    New Jersey

    I found this article very interesting because I experienced this health issue first-hand a few years ago. After being an injury-free athlete for decades, I suddenly started getting unusual (and painful) muscle injuries from ordinary athletic pursuits — including yoga, of all things — and they were slow to heal. At my next physical exam, the doctor found my vitamin D level was low and recommended vitamin D3 supplements. After a month or two on the supplements, the muscle injuries all healed and I haven’t had one since. Even if there’s no scientific correlation, my personal experience is enough to convince me of the connection, and I continue to take vitamin D3. At my most recent checkup, the doctor said my vitamin D level is great and to continue doing what I’m doing.

    Thanks for keeping us informed through your column!

  3. Joan

    I was low in vitamin D (27 ng/ml) despite taking 6,000 units of vitamin D3 per day. My physician put me on 50,000 units of vitamin D2 once a week. I feel much better, and my level rose to 39 ng/ml. Can you please discuss the pros and cons of taking vitamin D2 and D3?

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