Purpose: To evaluate the association between serum vitamin D level and the prevalence of lower extremity muscle strains and core muscle injuries in elite level athletes at the National Football League (NFL) combine.
Methods: During the 2015 NFL combine, all athletes with available serum vitamin D levels were included for study. Baseline data were collected, including age, race, body mass index, position, injury history specific to lower extremity muscle strain or core muscle injury, and Functional Movement Screen scores. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D was collected and defined as normal (≥32 ng/mL), insufficient (20-31 ng/mL), and deficient (<20 ng/mL). Univariate regression analysis was used to examine the association of vitamin D level and injury history. Subsequent multivariate regression analysis was used to examine this relation with adjustment for collected baseline data variables.
Results: The study population included 214 athletes, including 78% African American athletes and 51% skilled position players. Inadequate vitamin D was present in 59%, including 10% with deficient levels. Lower extremity muscle strain or core muscle injury was present in 50% of athletes, which was associated with lower vitamin D levels (P = .03). Athletes with a positive injury history also showed significantly lower vitamin D levels as compared with uninjured athletes (P = .03). African American/black race (P < .001) and injury history (P < .001) was associated with lower vitamin D. Vitamin D groups showed no differences in age (P = .9), body mass index (P = .9), or Functional Movement Screen testing (P = .2). Univariate analysis of inadequate vitamin D levels showed a 1.86 higher odds of lower extremity strain or core muscle injury (P = .03), and 3.61 higher odds of hamstring injury (P < .001). Multivariate analysis did not reach an independent association of low vitamin D with injury history (P = .07).
Conclusions: Inadequate vitamin D levels are a widespread finding in athletes at the NFL combine. Players with a history of lower extremity muscle strain and core muscle injury had a higher prevalence of inadequate vitamin D.
Level of evidence: Level IV, retrospective study-case series.
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