A recent study published by the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that nearly 80% of professional basketball players have inadequate vitamin D levels.
With the Olympics in full swing, individuals throughout the world are tuning in to watch the trials. In order to remain at the top of their game, it is crucial for athletes to take a multifaceted approach to their health, including maintaining healthy vitamin D levels.
The role of vitamin D in athletic performance is continuing to gain recognition among the professional athlete and fitness community ever since Cannell’s 2008 book on vitamin D and athletic performance was released. Several studies have assessed the role of vitamin D in athletic performance, concluding that vitamin D supplementation is linked with improved vertical jump height, exercise capacity and sprint times among athletes. This is further explained by a randomized controlled trial which determined that vitamin D supplementation increases type 2 muscle fiber size. Type 2 muscle fibers are responsible for fast, powerful movements.
Professional basketball players rely heavily on the agility and power that type 2 muscle fibers provide. However, since basketball players train mainly indoors, researchers theorize that these individuals may be at an increased risk for vitamin D deficiency, potentially impacting performance outcomes. Nevertheless, no studies to date have looked into vitamin D status among professional basketball players.
Therefore, researchers recently investigated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among basketball players who participated in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Combine. The NBA Combine is a pre-draft showcase where the top NBA prospect’s health and athletic ability are evaluated by NBA coaches, general managers and scouts. A total of 279 basketball players had their vitamin D levels measured in the NBA combines between 2009 and 2013; and thus, were included in the study.
Here is what the researchers found:
- A total of 221 of the 279 players (80%) had inadequate vitamin D levels (< 32 ng/ml).
- Ninety (32.3%) players were vitamin D deficient (< 20 ng/ml); whereas 131 players were insufficient (20-32 ng/ml).
- Height and weight were significantly greater among the players with healthy vitamin D levels compared to those with inadequate vitamin D levels (P = 0.001 and p = 0.008, respectfully).
The researchers concluded,
“This study, to the best of our knowledge, provides the first report on the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency among athletes of the NBA Combine.”
The results from this study highlight the alarming prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among athletes attending the NBA Combine. This study has provided a foundation for further evidence to build upon; however, it is limited by observational design and the lack of access to the player’s demographic information.
Therefore, the researchers stated,
“There is a need for continued investigation into the potential clinical effects of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency among NBA athletes.”
Sturges, M. & Cannell, JJ. New study finds low vitamin D status highly prevalent in professional basketball players. The Vitamin D Council Blog and Newsletter, 2016.