Health / Lab News

Vitamin D levels & the subsequent effect on a footballer’s performance

The amount of vitamin D a professional footballer is exposed to may be impacting their performanceHave a favourite football team? Ever wanted them to perform better? Well new research published in the online journal PLOS ONE suggests that the amount of sun your team are exposed to could be having an effect, with some researchers investigating whether vitamin D levels have an effect on exercise performance in professional footballers.

Vitamin D is synthesized following exposure to ultraviolet B radiation; therefore levels are directly affected by sunlight. Numerous studies have analysed the role of vitamin D in the body, and concluded that it plays a key role in calcium regulation, bone metabolism as well as numerous other physiological effects on neural and muscular tissues, the immune system and energy homeostasis. More recently it has been noted that vitamin D levels are associated with quadriceps’ strength, physical fitness and that having a deficiency predominantly affects the weight bearing muscles of the lower limbs. However, the majority of these studies have been performed on an older population.

This lead researchers to investigate the role of vitamin D within a younger cohort, and as professional footballers rely on aerobic capacity, muscle strength and speed they made ideal candidates.

67 professional footballers from two Greek Super League football teams and one Football-League Championship team participated in the study with a mean age of 25.6 (+/- 6.2) and height of 1.81m (+/- 0.08).

Participant vitamin D levels were assessed both pre- and post- the ‘six-week off-season’ along with exercise performance testing (consisting of squat jumps (SJ), countermovement jumps (CMJ) as well as sprint performance analysis (10m and 20m) and maximal oxygen consumption.

The following results were recorded:

  • Significant correlation between serum vitamin D levels and parameters in (SJ; P<0.001, CMJ; P<0.001, VO2max; P<0.001, 10 m; P<0.001, and 20 m; P<0.001) and post (SJ; P<0.001, CMJ; P<0.001, VO2max; P = 0.006, 10 m; P<0.001, and 20 m; P<0.001) experimental sessions.
  • Vitamin D concentration increased significantly (P<0.001) following the six-week off-season period compared to baseline, while at the same time all measured performance parameters decreased (SJ; P<0.001, CMJ; P<0.001, 10 m; P<0.001, 20 m; P<0.001, VO2max; P<0.001).

Study authors noted that: “our findings suggest that vitamin D levels are associated with the ergometric evaluation of muscle strength, as expressed by squat and countermovement jumps, sprinting capacity, and VO2max in professional soccer players, irrespective of the levels of performance. Furthermore, our data reaffirm the importance of UVB on serum vitamin D levels.”

Further comments indicated that there was a synergy between vitamin D levels and exercise-induced stress; “moreover, reductions in exercise training stress may also have beneficial effects on vitamin D levels, suggesting a possible association between its levels and training-induced stress. Our results indicate a possible bi-directional interaction between soccer performance indices and vitamin D levels.”

Reference: Plos One

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