Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in professional football players and associations with cardiovascular risk factors

Lindzi Sara Howder, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background: Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent among more than three-fourths of the United States population. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that athlete’s are just as susceptible to vitamin D deficiency, with recent research demonstrating the roles of vitamin D in muscle function and cardiovascular health. Despite being physically active, athletes with low vitamin D levels may experience a higher incidence of cardiovascular risk factors than athletes with normal vitamin D levels. Study Questions: This study investigated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency/insufficiency among professional football players and the association between vitamin D levels/status and cardiovascular risk factors. Methods: The study was a retrospective medical chart review of 54 professional football players from the Houston Texans National Football League Team from Spring Training 2012. We collected vitamin D levels, age, race/ethnicity, player position, height, weight, BMI, high-sensitivity c-reactive protein, total cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins, high-density lipoproteins, triglycerides, glucose, and blood pressure. Descriptive statistics were generated for all variables. Chi-square and correlation coefficients were used to evaluate the association between vitamin D status and cardiovascular risk factors. Results: Vitamin D, 25(OH)D mean laboratory value was 36.41 ± 15.72 ng/dL with a range of 6-83 ng/dL. Among the 54 players 68.5% (n=37) were African American and 31.5% (n=17) were White. The mean profile of all the variables creates an athlete who is a 25 years old, African American, with a BMI of 32.11, an average hsCRP cardiovascular risk, a desirable cholesterol profile, near optimal LDL profile, normal glucose profile, normal TG profile, normal HDL profile, and pre-hypertensive blood pressure status. Vitamin D status among the cohort was 9.2% (n=5) were deficient, 27.8% (n=15) were insufficient, and 63% (n=34) were sufficient. Statistical significance was found between 3-category vitamin D status (deficient/insufficient/sufficient) and race/ethnicity (p= .001). Also, significance was found between 2-category vitamin D status (deficient/sufficient) and race/ethnicity (p= .000), 2-category HDL (p= .019), and 2-category BP risk (p= .049). Conclusion: In a cohort of professional NFL football players who live in Houston, Texas, more than one-third have insufficient vitamin D status. Additionally, in our cohort all of those who were vitamin D insufficient were African American and none of the White players were vitamin D insufficient. This study demonstrates a prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in professional athletes and an association between vitamin D status and race/ethnicity.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Howder, Lindzi Sara, "Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in professional football players and associations with cardiovascular risk factors" (2015). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1597532.