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10/25/19 blog post

the vitamin you didn’t know was so important

can a vitamin reduce injury rates?

  • A 2013 study from England in professional athletes and healthy active non-elite athletes showed an increase in sprint performance and vertical leap after eight weeks of supplementing with this vitamin.
  • A lack of this vitamin can soften and weaken the bones leading to stress fractures and other injuries.
  • Not only does this vitamin promote bone health, it’s also great for the immune system.
  • In the United States, 15 percent of children and 36 to 77 percent of adolescents and adults are deficient in this important vitamin.

what is this mystery vitamin and why is it so important?

It’s vitamin D! Why is it so important? Simply put, more vitamin D can mean less injuries, less broken bones and less illnesses.

While we can naturally get vitamin D from sunlight it generally isn’t enough. And as daylight savings and winter approaches, the hours of direct sunlight decreases. As sad as it is losing daylight hours, it’s even worse for our health. Less sunlight equals less vitamin D.

This is especially important for athletes who are highly motivated to avoid injuries. And yet it is estimated that only 5% of collegiate athletes meet the recommended intake of vitamin D.

how does vitamin D help me avoid injuries?

Very low vitamin D levels can cause less absorption of calcium and phosphate in the body. This can cause a softening and weakening of bones leading to stress fractures and other injuries.

how can I increase my vitamin D?

Although time in the sun is a significant factor, the sun is often not strong enough to meet vitamin D needs. We often wrongly assume that athletes, because they train outdoors, receive enough sunlight to achieve their vitamin D needs. Sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and protective equipment all block the skins ability to absorb sunlight.

Also, unfortunately very few foods naturally have vitamin D. Fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in American diets.

Since most athletes are vitamin D insufficient, supplementation should be one of the more essential parts of an athlete’s nutrition routine.

The American Academy of Pediatrics dietary recommendation for vitamin D intake is 600 IU for children and adolescents. However, medical providers may routinely suggest supplementation up to 2000 IU daily. We suggest taking anywhere from 600 IU to 2000 IU of Vitamin D3.


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Lora Scott, MD

division chief sports medicine
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