Vitamin D Profile in National Football League Players

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Abstract

Background:

By maintaining phosphate and calcium homeostasis, vitamin D is critical for bone health and possibly physical performance. Hence, vitamin D is important to athletes. Few studies have investigated vitamin D levels in relation to fractures and performance in athletes, and no published study has included a multiracial sample of professional American football players.

Purpose:

To assess vitamin D levels, including the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency/insufficiency, in professional American football players and to evaluate the association of vitamin D levels with race, fracture history, and the ability to obtain a contract position, which may be a marker for athletic performance.

Study Design:

Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.

Methods:

Serum vitamin D levels of 80 professional football players from a single team in the National Football League were obtained during the 2011 off-season (mean age, 26.5 ± 3.7 years; black, n = 67 [84%]). These levels were used to compare injury reports from the 2011–2012 and 2012–2013 seasons. Statistical analyses were performed to test if vitamin D levels were related to race, fracture history, and the ability to obtain a contract position.

Results:

Mean vitamin D level was 27.4 ± 11.7 ng/mL, with significantly lower levels for black players (25.6 ± 11.3 ng/mL) versus white players (37.4 ± 8.6 ng/mL; F1,78 = 13.00, P = .001). All athletes who were vitamin D deficient were black. When controlling for number of professional years played, vitamin D levels were significantly lower in players with at least 1 bone fracture when compared with no fractures. Players who were released during the preseason because of either injury or poor performance had significantly lower vitamin D levels than did players who played in the regular season.

Conclusion:

Black professional football players have a higher rate of vitamin D deficiency than do white players. Furthermore, professional football players with higher vitamin D levels were more likely to obtain a contract position in the National Football League. Professional football players deficient in vitamin D levels may be at greater risk of bone fractures.

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