New George Mason study indicates indoor college athletes may be Vitamin D deficient

Accepted NCAA proposals open door for D-III institutions like UWL to provide nutritional supplements to athletes

Research from both George Mason University and Mayo Clinic Health System says college athletes who play indoor sports may be deficient in Vitamin D, a key nutrient in maintaining bone health and one that people get primarily from sun exposure.

Andrew Jagim Ph.D. at Mayo Clinic paired with George Mason University back in 2018 and initially tested Vitamin D levels of the university’s men and women’s Division-I basketball programs. Based on the initial levels, trainers gave athletes various daily units of vitamin D, and the athletes were then monitored through the season. At the end of the season when the athletes’ blood was tested again, the study found 65 percent of the athletes were Vitamin D deficient.

“The current recommended daily allowance, or the RDA for Vitamin D is 600 IUs, or international units a day,” Jagim said. “But what we found in this study is that’s likely not enough. Even 10,000 IUs a day still wasn’t enough to get some of those athletes back into the optimal ranges, which was kind of a shock to us when we went through the results.”

The study concludes that more research is needed to determine what ideal levels of Vitamin D should be, but that’s harder to do when you get away from Division I schools.
NCAA rules currently allow a D-I institution like George Mason to provide nutritional supplements to athletes, but that has not been allowed at the D-III level, because it was classified as an extra benefit.

But this winter, the NCAA passed a proposal that will allow D-III institutions like UWL to provide supplements to their athletes like at higher divisions, which opens the door for UWL to do similar studies like George Mason’s. However, some barriers, like cost, still stand in the way.

“Drawing the lab work, where you get it done, who’s doing that, and then it’s cost-prohibitive,” head athletic trainer Joel Luedke said. “Trying to run through insurance…Insurance companies will come back and be like, ‘Is this necessary?’ And unless we’ve got a medical reason for doing it, there’s some questions around that.”

One local college program that can be susceptible to lower Vitamin D levels is the UWL wrestling team. Several athletes told News 8 Now Sports that they’ve had nutritionists come present to them about the importance of maintaining good levels of Vitamin D. Athletes said the coaching staff insists that they spend time outside when they can during the season, and several athletes said they also take some type of daily multivitamin.