Vitamin D profile in National Football League players

Am J Sports Med. 2015 May;43(5):1241-5. doi: 10.1177/0363546514567297. Epub 2015 Feb 3.


Background: By maintaining phosphate and calcium homeostasis, vitamin D is critical for bone health and possibly physical performance. Hence, vitamin D is important to athletes. Few studies have investigated vitamin D levels in relation to fractures and performance in athletes, and no published study has included a multiracial sample of professional American football players.

Purpose: To assess vitamin D levels, including the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency/insufficiency, in professional American football players and to evaluate the association of vitamin D levels with race, fracture history, and the ability to obtain a contract position, which may be a marker for athletic performance.

Study design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.

Methods: Serum vitamin D levels of 80 professional football players from a single team in the National Football League were obtained during the 2011 off-season (mean age, 26.5±3.7 years; black, n=67 [84%]). These levels were used to compare injury reports from the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons. Statistical analyses were performed to test if vitamin D levels were related to race, fracture history, and the ability to obtain a contract position.

Results: Mean vitamin D level was 27.4±11.7 ng/mL, with significantly lower levels for black players (25.6±11.3 ng/mL) versus white players (37.4±8.6 ng/mL; F 1,78=13.00, P=.001). All athletes who were vitamin D deficient were black. When controlling for number of professional years played, vitamin D levels were significantly lower in players with at least 1 bone fracture when compared with no fractures. Players who were released during the preseason because of either injury or poor performance had significantly lower vitamin D levels than did players who played in the regular season.

Conclusion: Black professional football players have a higher rate of vitamin D deficiency than do white players. Furthermore, professional football players with higher vitamin D levels were more likely to obtain a contract position in the National Football League. Professional football players deficient in vitamin D levels may be at greater risk of bone fractures.

Keywords: 25-hydroxyvitamin D; athletic training; football; injury prevention; vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans
  • Athletes
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Football / injuries
  • Football / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Vitamin D / blood*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Vitamin D