Football players cannot only avoid the probability of ending up on the disabled list by maximizing their vitamin D levels, but can improve their overall health as well. This also applies to all athletes of any age in any sport.
Football Players Sidelined by Low Vitamin D
The Superbowl is now over, but a recent study indicates that nearly 60% of NFL prospects had low vitamin D levels. This places them at an increased risk of sports related injuries.
The study was published online on Dec. 21, 2017 by Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery. This study was conducted with 214 participants from the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine. The average age of study participants was 22.
The Combine is an annual event where top college prospects perform physical and mental tests for NFL coaches, scouts, agents and talent evaluators. Age, position, race, injury history and whether they had missed any college games due to a lower extremity muscle strain or a core muscle injury were studied.
56% of these NFL prospects that had insufficient levels of vitamin D, which was defined as a serum level of 20 to 31 ng/ml, suffered some form of lower extremity muscle strain or muscle injury.
73% of prospects that had a severe vitamin D deficiency, which was defined by a vitamin D level of 20 ng/ml or lower, suffered some form of lower extremity muscle strain or muscle injury.
Only 40% of prospects that had what they defined as “normal” vitamin D levels reported similar injuries. In this study “normal” vitamin D levels were defined as at or above 32 ng/ml.
Of the 14 study participants who missed at least one collegiate football game due to a muscle injury to a lower extremity or core region, 86% were found to have significantly low levels of vitamin D.
The statistical analysis revealed that inadequate vitamin D levels nearly doubled a player’s odds of suffering lower extremity strain or core muscle injury and raised their odds of hamstring injury nearly 400%.
The Race Factor
The 2015 NFL combine study found that 70% of black athletes had low levels of vitamin D, as compared to only 13% of white athletes.
There were no meaningful differences in vitamin D levels between players at different positions.
What is an Optimal Vitamin D Level?
Research indicates that a level of 40 ng/ml is the minimum level for good general health and that 60 ng/ml is likely a more ideal level.
I prefer to see a vitamin D level of around 80 ng/ml, which is what I strive for personally and recommend to my patients.
I wonder how many football players with a vitamin D level of over 80 ng/ml suffered lower extremity strain, a core muscle injury or a hamstring injury? That statistic wasn’t readily available, but I bet that it was a very low percentage.
FIR Industries, Inc Will Be At The 2018 NFL Combine!
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We are excited to be one of 35 companies having a booth at the 2018 NFL Combine Trade Show, which will be in Indianapolis, Indiana from February 28th – March 3rd.
Vitamin K2, The Missing Link
A key player wasn’t examined in this 2015 NFL Combine study. That key player is vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is a cousin of vitamin K. Vitamin K2 can be converted from vitamin K in the human body, but this process is inefficient. We therefore need to consume vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 helps to transport the calcium into the places that it should be, such as the bones and teeth and away from the places where it should not be, such as calcifying the arteries and the soft tissues.
Vitamin K2 comes in several forms. The MK4 version of vitamin K2 comes from animal sources, such as meats, cheeses, eggs and fermented dairy products. This version doesn’t last that long in the human body. The MK7 version comes from plant sources, such as fermented vegetables and natto, which is fermented soy. Organic natto is GMO free and in my opinion the only soy that humans should consume. Non-fermented soy contains estrogen-like compounds called phytoestrogens that bond to the estrogen receptor sites in the body. The vegetable fermentation process breaks down those phytoestrogens to other compounds that are not harmful. Too many phytoestrogens can cause estrogen dominance in women and feminization in men.
How Much Vitamin D & Vitamin K2 Should I Take?
I strongly recommend to get your vitamin D levels checked a few times a year. This will help you to tweak your vitamin D intake. People usually need more vitamin D in the winter. Generally for adults, 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day is a ballpark figure. I don’t recommend vitamin D2 to be taken at all, which should be avoided and is a story for another day.
For every 1,000 IU of D3, you should take 10 micrograms of the MK7 version of vitamin K2. I like the liquid D3 and K2 from Ortho Molecular Products, since each drop has 1,000 IU of D3 and 10 micrograms of K2.
If you are on blood thinners, you should consult your prescribing physician and pharmacist prior to taking any form of vitamin K.
The implications of this study are far reaching. This is truly a landmark study. Not only should all athletes of all ages maximize their vitamin D levels to reduce the chances of injury, but to also maximize their health and well being. This is especially applicable for “Weekend Warriors” who may sit around all week and then try to make up for their inactivity on the weekends. This holds true for non-athletes as well. Non-athletes have the potential to reduce their chances of physical injuries by maximizing their vitamin D levels, as well as to reduce their chances of suffering from depression.
Vitamin D turns on good genes and turns off bad genes. This is called gene modulation. The gene modulation capability of vitamin D is profound. By some estimates, vitamin D may modulate about 20% of our genes.
Vitamin D deficiency is something that we recently started to realize is so prevalent. Fifty years ago, the only discernible vitamin D deficiency was when someone had rickets, which is a condition of very weak bones. There wasn’t a vitamin D test back then, but there is now.
How Many Americans are Vitamin D Deficient?
Most health experts estimate that about 40% of Americans are vitamin D deficient. Dr. Joseph Mercola estimates that about 85% of Americans are vitamin D deficient. The percentage varies by what level of vitamin D is considered “deficient”. I agree with Dr. Mercola.
What Else Do Vitamin D Deficiencies Impact?
Here are just a few of the studies that support the need for vitamin D levels to be optimal:
- Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Concentrations >40 ng/ml Are Associated with >65% Lower Cancer Risk.
- Vitamin D deficiency increases the mortality risk in the general population.
- Low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D increases the risk of lung cancer in male smokers.
- Depressed adolescents improved their levels of depression with vitamin D supplementation.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is drastically improved with vitamin D supplementation.