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High Prevalence of Vitamin D Insufficiency in Athletes and Dancers

Constantini, Naama W MD; Arieli, Rakefet RD, MSc; Chodick, Gabriel PhD; Dubnov-Raz, Gal MD, MSc

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: September 2010 - Volume 20 - Issue 5 - p 368-371
doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e3181f207f2
Original Research

Objective: Vitamin D insufficiency is prevalent in various populations worldwide but with scarce data on physically active individuals. Vitamin D is important to athletes, affecting bone mass, immunity, and physical performance. This study evaluated the prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency among young athletes and dancers.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Sport medicine clinic.

Patients: Data on 98 athletes and dancers (age, 14.7 ± 3.0 years; range, 10-30 years; 53% men), who had undergone screening medical evaluations, were extracted from medical records.

Independent Variable: Serum 25(OH)D concentrations.

Main Outcome Measures: Serum 25(OH)D concentrations, age, sex, sport discipline, month of blood test, and serum ferritin. Vitamin D insufficiency was defined as serum 25(OH)D concentration <30 ng/mL.

Results: Mean serum 25(OH)D concentration was 25.3 ± 8.3 ng/mL. Seventy-three percent of participants were vitamin D insufficient. Prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency was higher among dancers (94%), basketball players (94%), and Tae Kwon Do fighters (67%) and among athletes from indoor versus outdoor sports (80% vs 48%; P = 0.002). 25(OH)D levels adjusted for age and sex correlated with serum ferritin and season.

Conclusions: In this study, conducted among young athletes and dancers from various disciplines in a sunny country, a high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency was identified. A higher rate of vitamin D insufficiency was found among participants who practice indoors, during the winter months, and in the presence of iron depletion. Given the importance of vitamin D to athletes for several reasons, we suggest that athletes and dancers be screened for vitamin D insufficiency and treated as needed.

From the *“Hadassah Optimal” Sport Medicine Center, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel; †Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel; and ‡Exercise, Nutrition and Lifestyle Clinic, The Edmond and Lily Safra Children's Hospital, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Israel.

Submitted for publication May 26, 2010; accepted July 13, 2010.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Naama W. Constantini, MD, FACSM, “Hadassah Optimal” Sport Medicine Center, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel (e-mail:

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