Background: Rates have been reported in some populations of up to 90% of individuals at sub-optimal levels of vitamin D (< 32mg/ml). Athletes are not excluded from these populations. In fact due to indoor training, winter seasons, etc, some athletes are more prone to decreased levels of vitamin D. With recent studies showing the benefits of adequate levels of vitamin D improving an individual’s musculoskeletal and general overall health, the question emerges: is there a cause and effect between decreased levels of vitamin D and increased frequency of injuries? Therefore, would supplementation of vitamin D aid in the prevention of athletic injuries?
Methods: An extensive research process was done using relevant databases including EBSCO-Host, CINAHL, Evidence Based Medicine-Research, MEDLine, Web of Science, Google Scholar, and Cochrane CENTRAL. Key words used during the search were “vitamin D” and “athletic injuries.” Inclusion criteria included articles that looked at competitive athletes, had at least two groups by comparing a placebo group to a vitamin D supplementation (without calcium supplementation) group, and looked at the rate of occurrence of injuries between the vitamin D and placebo supplementation groups. Articles were excluded if not in English. Relevant articles were assessed for quality using the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE).
Results: Two randomized control trial (RCT) studies met inclusion criteria and were included in this systematic review. Lewis et al demonstrated that all athletes were at sufficient vitamin D levels at baseline testing and there appeared to be no decrease in injuries with additional vitamin D supplementation. However, the majority of the injuries reported occurred soon after an observed drop in vitamin D levels in most athletes. Wyon et al was a RCT that looked at 24 elite professional ballet dancers. All the dancers were below 32ng/ml of vitamin D at baseline testing. The study ended by showing only 29% of the athletes in the vitamin D supplementation group receiving injuries and the placebo group had numbers equivalent to 100% of the athletes suffering from injuries.
Conclusion: Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency is just as prevalent in the athletic population as in the general population. All athletes should be screened by health care providers if they have not been recently to evaluate their serum vitamin D levels. Athletes who are already at optimal levels of vitamin D may not benefit from additional supplementation of vitamin D. However, those athletes who have vitamin D levels < 32ng/ml may be able to prevent athletic injuries simply by adding a supplementation of vitamin D to their daily routine.
Key Words: Vitamin D, athletes, injuries
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