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