Vitamin D is found in very few dietary resources such as the flesh of fatty fish. The major source of Vitamin D is via synthesis of cholecalciferol in the deep epidermis through a chemical reaction that is dependent on sun exposure. In people who have sufficient sun exposure, Vitamin D deficiency is next to impossible. Staying indoors can result in Vitamin D deficiency, however, this is quite rare as most people get their required sun exposure while performing daily activities.
College athletes who participate in indoor sports such as table tennis, chess, boxing have minimal sunlight exposure. As most colleges have basketball courts indoors, even basketball players, especially African-Americans, could have Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of sports-related injuries.
Importance Of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is crucial for bone growth, development, and repair. The deficiency of vitamin D results in osteomalacia in adults and rickets in children. Both these conditions result in weakening and softening of bone as bone mineral density is significantly reduced.
Research on Vitamin D deficiency in basketball players
Research Institute: George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and the Mayo Clinic Health System Sports Medicine Research in Onalaska, Wisconsin
Participants: 20 Basketball players from the George Mason Patriots men’s and women’s teams
Methodology: Vitamin D status of all the athletes were measured prior to starting different dosages of Vitamin D supplement to identify the optimum dose required to prevent deficiency. Each team’s trainer closely monitored supplement compliance. The study also took into account the fat composition of the body, skin pigmentation type, sun exposure per day of each participant, and dietary intake of Vitamin D.
Findings: 13 athletes among the 20 participants were found to have some degree of Vitamin D deficiency at baseline investigation prior to supplementation. Vitamin D deficiency was found predominantly in athletes of darker skin type. No deficiency was found in athletes of fair skin type.
Dr. Sina Gallo, assistant professor in Mason’s Department of Nutrition and Food Studies said, “Prior studies that have addressed this topic typically report data from non-athletic, older populations. Because athletes may not get the necessary vitamin D through natural dietary sources, supplementation offers a safe, affordable, efficacious method to combat deficiencies. This may be particularly beneficial for athletes living at higher latitudes during the winter months.”
Considering the small size of the study, the study results don’t represent the overall athlete population. Larger scale study involving athletes of a variety of indoor sports, of different ethnicities and geographical location is essential to truly assess the degree of Vitamin D deficiency in indoor sports athletes.