Is a Lack of Sunlight Weakening your Bones?

Do you suffer from recurrent stress fractures, or find it hard to build up strength? Latest research from the IADMS conference reminds us to take a wider perspective when looking at bone injury and enhancing performance...

Vitamin D deficiency is rapidly rising as a cause for concern in both dancers and non-dancers. At the 2010 IADMS conference, both Roger Wolman (MD, FRCP, Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, London, UK) and Selina Shah (MD, FACP,  Center for Sports Medicine at St Frances Memorial Hospital, San Francisco, California, USA) presented papers on this very pertinent issue.

Vitamin D is produced in the skin after exposure to ultraviolet B light from the sun or artificial sources and occurs naturally in a small range of foods.

Reduced levels of Vitamin D Can lead to reduced levels of Calcium and PO4 which can lead to weaker bones as well as wasting of Type 2 muscle fibers (fast-twitch). This means that the power able to be generated in the muscle is reduced. Vitamin D deficiency is now a recognised cause of injury and sub-optimal performance and is increasingly being observed in young and otherwise healthy people.

While in any bone stress or stress fracture injury we must first consider bio-mechanical and technical factors, in dancers who experience frequent injuries, or are slow to heal from a simple injury, it would be wise to consider the possibility of a Vitamin D deficiency as a contributing factor.

In countries with high sunshine hours, you would expect there to be no issues with Vitamin D levels, however, possibly due to promotions such as the “Slip-Slop-Slap” rule, introduced in the 1980’s in both New Zealand and Australia to reduce the incidence of skin Cancers and Melanoma, many young people are not getting adequate sunlight to allow the production of Vitamin D naturally. This is especially relevant for young athletes who train a lot indoors (Ballet, Gymnastics etc).

In some countries, staple foods such as milk, flour and margarine are artificially fortified with vitamin D, and it is also available as a supplement in pill form. Food sources such as fatty fish, eggs, and meat are rich in vitamin D and are often recommended for consumption to those suffering vitamin D deficiency, however it is much harder to gain the quantities of Vitamin needed to protect bones from food sources than it is from sunlight.

You can screen for Vitamin D Deficiency with a simple blood test, so if you think that you or your child may be at risk, talk to your local GP about screening.

Vitamin D Testing

Further information about Vitamin D and deficiency of it can be found on the following websites:

Vitamin D on Wikipedia

Vitamin D on Better Health

Injury & Foot Resources

If you are looking to delve deeper into this topic, check out the following programs:

  • Will I Ever Dance Again: The “Will I Ever Dance Again?” program is perfect if you are unable to train at full capacity, whether this is due to a foot injury, surgery, an accident or illness outside of the studio. It helps you build back to full capacity gradually, while maintaining strength, flexibility and control in the rest of the body.
  • Level One Dance Teacher and Therapist Training: This unique course covers a multitude of assessment and treatment techniques to individualise a dancer's training. With special focuses on Postural Control, Core Stability, Flexibility, Basic Classical Technique, The Dancers Hip, Allegro, Spinal Mobility and Arabesques, it is suitable for anyone working closely with dancers.

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