Prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy in athletes: a systematic-review and meta-analysis

Sports Med. 2015 Mar;45(3):365-78. doi: 10.1007/s40279-014-0267-6.


Background: Vitamin D is essential for maintaining optimal bone health. The prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy in athletes is currently unclear.

Objective: The objective of this study is to determine the prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy in athletes.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis. Multiple databases were searched and studies assessing serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] status in athletes were identified. Serum 25(OH)D is measured to clinically determine vitamin D status. Reviewers independently selected the eligible articles, assessed the methodological quality, and extracted data. Disagreements were resolved by consensus. Weighted proportions of vitamin D inadequacy [serum 25(OH)D <32 ng/mL] were calculated (DerSimonian-Laird random-effects model) and compared using Chi-squared (χ (2)) test. Subgroup analyses were conducted and risk ratios (RRs) with 95 % confidence intervals (CIs) were reported.

Results: Twenty-three studies with 2,313 athletes [mean (standard deviation) age 22.5 (5.0) years, 76 % male] were included. Of 2,313 athletes, 56 % (44-67 %) had vitamin D inadequacy that significantly varied by geographical location (p < 0.001). It was significantly higher in the UK and in the Middle East. The risk significantly increased for winter and spring seasons (RR 1.85; 95 % CI 1.27-2.70), indoor sport activities (RR 1.19; 95 % CI 1.09-1.30), and mixed sport activities (RR 2.54; 95 % CI 1.03-6.26). The risk was slightly higher for >40°N latitude [RR 1.14 (95 % CI 0.91-1.44)] but it increased significantly [RR 1.85 (1.35-2.53)] after excluding the Middle East as an outlier. Seven studies with 359 athletes reported injuries. The prevalence of injuries in athletes was 43 % (95 % CI 20-68) [bone related = 19 % (95 % CI 7-36); muscle and soft-tissue = 37.5 % (95 % CI 11.5-68.5)].

Conclusion: Despite the limitations of the current evidence, the prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy in athletes is prominent. The risk significantly increases in higher latitudes, in winter and early spring seasons, and for indoor sport activities. Regular investigation of vitamin D status using reliable assays and supplementation is essential to ensure healthy athletes. The prevalence of injuries in athletes is notable but its association with vitamin D status is unclear. A well-designed longitudinal study is needed to answer this possible association.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Altitude
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons
  • Sports*
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology*


  • Vitamin D
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D