The Vitamin D Deficiency Dilemma and What It Means to Bones…and Our Health

Shedding some light on the high and low of it

Vitamin D deficiency has become a growing trend in the United States and is now prompting physicians in different areas of specialty to test Vitamin D levels in patients.Our Need for Vitamin D

While low Vitamin D levels have always played an important role in orthopedics, insufficient levels are now also linked to a wide range of other health issues – from Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease to cancer (1).

Measuring Vitamin D status in blood levels of a form known as 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] has become an important part of health screenings.

While orthopedic specialists treating patients for a bone fracture today routinely test Vitamin D levels in patients, increasingly physicians in other areas of specialty are including such tests for their patients as well.

A Growing Trend in Vitamin D Deficiencies

A growing trend in low Vitamin D levels among a broad range of ages has prompted the National Institutes for Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assess possible causes, further exploring the link between Vitamin D in not only bone health but other diseases as well.  The growing trend, which is seen not only in the United States but worldwide, has been called a pandemic and prompted researchers to launch studies into the causes and the implications on overall health (2).

It is believed that lifestyle changes, growth in obesity, increase use of medication and changes in diet (reduction in nutrient rich foods and increase in processed, packaged nutrient deficient) are all contributors to this trend.

While some study results have caused daily intake recommendations to increase from 200 IU to 400 to 600 IU to address the deficiencies, many believe much higher amounts are required (4,000 to 10,000 IU daily) to reach optimal levels and achieve maximum health benefits.  Recommended daily intake and appropriate supplementation for those showing a deficiency continue to evolve. Recommendations established by the Institute of Medicine, 2011 are used as a general guideline. Ongoing research will continue to fuel this discussion.

Vitamin D and its Role in Bone Health

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which is essential for maintaining mineral balance in the body. Its most active form in humans is Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which can be synthesized in the skin with exposure to ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation from sunlight.

Vitamin D3 conversion and use within our body.

Vitamin D3 metabolism and use within our body.

Plants can synthesize ergosterol by ultraviolet light, which is converted to vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), but is a less active form of vitamin D (less than 30% of Vitamin D3) (3).

Vitamin D is necessary for the proper absorption of calcium, which together have shown to reduce risk of osteoporosis, assist in the healing of bone fractures and decrease risk of future bone breaks. Vitamin D has other roles in the body as well, including modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function and reduction of inflammation (4).

When exposure to UVB radiation is insufficient, adequate intake of vitamin D from the diet (Vitamin D-fortified foods and supplements) is essential for optimal health.

After Vitamin D is consumed in the diet or synthesized in the skin, the biologically inactive form then enters the circulation and is transported to the liver, where 25(OH)D is formed.  This is the major circulating form of vitamin D and the indicator of vitamin D status in the body. Increased exposure to sunlight or increased dietary intake of Vitamin D-enriched foods and/or Vitamin D3 supplements increases blood levels of 25(OH)D, making the blood 25(OH)D concentration an effective indicator of Vitamin D nutritional status.

Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

While studies continue to explore possible causes of the widespread Vitamin D deficiency, a number have already been identified.  Some are the result of societal changes such as increased use of sun blocks/sun screens for fear of skin cancer (limiting unprotected sun exposure) and changes in our diet (processed, nutrient deficient foods versus nutrient and Vitamin D-rich foods). Both of which have gradually reduced the amount of Vitamin D intake we receive.

 Other possible causes of Vitamin D Deficiency include:

1.) Obesity

Some studies suggest that a higher BMI leads to lower 25(OH) D (4). Greater amounts of subcutaneous fat sequesters more of the vitamin and alter its release into circulation (5).

2.) Naturally dark-skinned individuals

Greater amounts of the pigment melanin in the epidermal layer (resulting in darker skin) reduces the skin’s ability to produce Vitamin D from sunlight.

3.) Certain Medications

Corticosteroid medications such as prednisone (often prescribed to reduce inflammation) can reduce calcium absorption and hinder Vitamin D metabolism. Other weight-loss, cholesterol-lowering and epileptic seizure medications have also been implicated in reduced calcium absorption and Vitamin D levels.

4.)  Age

As we age, our skin cannot synthesize Vitamin D as efficiently. The elderly are also likely to spend more time indoors, leading to inadequate intakes of the vitamin.

Increasing Vitamin D Levels

While it is difficult today to reach the recommended levels of Vitamin D without supplementation, below are some of the best sources that may reduce the quantity of supplements required.

Calcium and Vitamin D-rich foods can help support strong bones, decrease risk of disease.

Calcium and Vitamin D-rich foods can help support strong bones, decrease risk of disease.

  •  Unprotected sun exposure (10 – 20 minutes several times a week depending on skin color and geographical location).
  • Vitamin D-rich foods such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), beef liver, cheese and egg yolks.
  • Vitamin D-fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, margarine and butter.
  • Vitamin K2, which is linked toimproved use of Vitamin D3 and calcium (6).

 

References

  1. Holick MF. Vitamin D: importance in the preventioin of cancers, type 1 diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.  Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;79(3):362-371.
  2. Holick MF. The vitamin D Deficiency pandemic and consequences for nonskeletal health: mechanisms of action. Mol Aspects Med. 2008;29(6):361-8.
  3. Armas LA, Hollis BW, Heaney RP. Vitamin D2 is much less effective than vitamin D3 in humans. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004;89(11):5387-5391.
  4. Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements – https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/ .
  5. Vimaleswaran KS, Berry DJ, Lu C et al. Causal relationship between obesity and Vitamin D status:  bi-directional Mendelian randomization analysis of multiple cohorts. 2013 – http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001383.
  6. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements – https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminK-HealthProfessional/

 

Dr. Korsh Jafarnia is one of Houston’s leading board certified, fellowship trained hand and upper extremity specialists.  A member of UT Physicians, Dr. Jafarnia is affiliated with Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute at Memorial City and the Texas Medical Center.  He also serves as an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at McGovern Medical School. Call 713.486.1700 for an appointment, or go to www.korshjafarniamd.com to

Hoverboard Hazards

The exciting new phenomena of “hoverboarding” has made hoverboards one of the most popular technological “toys” on the market today.  Intended for agile adolescents, its appeal has also drawn parents and other adults nostalgic for those days gone by.

The technology of the hoverboard, known as a smartboard or balance board as well, doesn’t actually create a hover but rather a forward and backward motion on a sideways skateboard of sorts, with either a large single center wheel or two smaller ones at each end.  It is automated, can reach a formidable speed of 16 mph and relies on body movement for navigation. It is basically a hands free, self-balancing electric scooter.

Concern over hoverboard safety grows amid increase in injuries.

Concern over hoverboard safety grows amid increase in injuries.

They have become the vehicle of choice for students travelling around campus and preteens maneuvering around the house and down the street to visit friends.  They light up, are stealth quiet, move as fast as one’s imagination …. and leave hands free for any other activity desired on the fly.

Unfortunately, while the mainstream hoverboard never actually leaves the ground, its ability to send riders airborne is causing increasing concern.

In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported receiving dozens of hoverboard-related injuries from across the United States.  Houston hospitals have also reported in a recent Associated Press article seeing a sharp increase in the number of hoverboard accidents sending adult and young riders alike to the ER and urgent care clinics.

Colleges are not only restricting their use on campus, as a result of the injury risk (to the user and passers by) but also the fire hazard their electrical system poses.  The hoverboard fire hazard is covered extensively in other hoverboard reports.

Among the most common musculoskeletal injuries seen from hoverboard use include concussions, fractures, contusions and abrasions.

Concussions

While most frequently seen in sports such as football and soccer, concussions are increasingly reported in hoverboard accidents.  With no recommended safety wear, the speed and maneuverability of the device is resulting in high impact falls and collisions – resulting in concussions. The primary symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Headache
  • Trouble concentrating, feeling “foggy”
  • Nausea
  • Delayed reaction times
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Sensitivity with bright lights or loud sounds
  • Irritability

 If a concussion is suspected, an evaluation should be conducted by a physician and hoverboard and other balancing activities should be avoided.

Fractures

Wrist fractures are among the most common types of fractures seen in hoverboard accidents – distal radius fractures among the most common type of wrist fracture.  This is often the result of breaking a fall or harsh impact with an outstretched arm. Other hoverboard fractures and dislocations have been seen in the fingers. Symptoms of a fracture or dislocation can be evident with extreme pain, swelling and slight disfigurement or subtle with only slight swelling and pain.

Most wrist fractures and finger fractures and dislocations can be treated nonsurgically, depending on the severity of the fracture or dislocation.  A splint or other bracing may be indicated, along with anti-inflammatory medication and rest/refrain from extracurricular activity.

Contusions and Abrasions

Collisions causing contusions and abrasions are frequently reported on hoverboards in the absence of safety gear. While most are minor cuts and scraps, some may result in open wounds requiring stiches, while potentially damaging nerves and other soft tissue.  Swollen, discolored injuries lasting more than a month should be further evaluated by a physician.

Preventing Hoverboard Injuries

The lack of safety standards and recommended safety gear/wear is a concern among hoverboard retailers and healthcare providers alike.  But, parents do not have to wait until such recommendations are established.  If a hoverboard is in your family’s future, take the proper precautions. As with any sport, safety gear recommended or not, will provide a bit of assurance.

Cyclists travelling at much less speeds not only have both hands and legs navigating a two-wheeled structure designed for the road, but also helmets, gloves, shoes and other gear designed for safety and the sport. This is also true of rollerbladers and skateboarders. Invest in the safety of your hoverboard rider and purchase protective safety gear.

Help young riders understand the potential risks for injury and encourage that they err on the side of caution to avoid the ER.

Have fun and be safe!

Read a hoverboard article from a young contributing writer.

 

Ring Avulsion, a Traumatic Finger Injury

Recently talk show host Jimmy Fallon explained to his audience how a seemingly minor fall nearly cost him a finger – shedding light on a rare yet serious finger trauma known as a Ring Avulsion injury.

Ring avulsion results from the mechanism of crushing, shearing and avulsion, inducing severe macroscopic and microscopic damage. This type of injury often occurs when a ring that an individual is wearing is caught on an object, usually during a fall or jump.  It can also occur when caught on fast moving equipment or just simply in a “freak” accident.

Damage from the abrupt and often harsh tug of the caught ring can range from a simple contusion to “degloving” of soft tissue – pulling the skin off circumferentially and stripping away the nerves, tendons and bone. Severe accidents may result in traumatic amputation of the finger.

Ring avulsion can be among one of the most devastating traumatic finger injuries, as often replantation following severe soft tissue damage is not possible – requiring revision amputation.

Fortunately, advances in microsurgery and interposition graft techniques have improved results with ring avulsion replantation.  Patients should see a hand specialist immediately after the injury is identified.

Symptoms of Ring Avulsion

While Fallon knew he had severely injured his finger in his fall, the extent of the damage and seriousness of the injury was not completely revealed until his examination and x-ray.  Prompt attention and surgical care from a specialized hand team fortunately saved his finger.

The severe damage that can occur in a ring avulsion case is not always evident to a patient. Immediate examination and x-ray assessment are necessary.

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Lack of sensation at the tip
  • Disfigurement
  • Finger discoloration or whitening

In severe cases, part of the finger is removed from the bone or completely severed (traumatic amputation).

Diagnosing and Treating Ring Avulsion

When a patient presents with this type of finger trauma, the wound is cleaned and inspected for visible avulsed vessel, nerve, and tendon.  Damaged skin edges are also assessed.  An x-ray may also be indicated before determining the type of avulsion a patient has incurred.  If a portion of the finger is separated, an x-ray is performed on both the amputated part and the remaining digit to fully asses damage and likelihood of replantation.

If there is a separated part, it is wrapped in a saline gauze and placed in a bag with ice water.  The patient is given antibiotics and tetanus prophylaxis.

The injury is then classified using one of several ring avulsion classification systems that exist.  Most commonly used is the Urbaniak Classification system.  The class of ring avulsion (Class 1, 2, or 3) will help determine treatment.

The goal of the hand surgeon is to salvage, maintain function and, if possible, provide an esthetic appearance.

Commonly used classification chart for Ring Avulsion injuries.

Commonly used classification charts for Ring Avulsion injuries.

Avoiding Risk of Ring Avulsion

It is difficult for patients to understand how otherwise inconsequential stumbles or movements can result in the damage or loss of a digit when a ring is involved.  We often forget that the bones and joints of the hand and wrist are small and capable of sustaining just so much force. Skin is the finger’s strongest part.  Once the skin tears, the remaining tissue quickly degloves. Though rare, the potential harm that a ring can pose should be considered – particularly when performing certain extracurricular or sports activities, or when working with machinery. Unfortunately many accidents resulting in a ring avulsion are not anticipated nor could be imagined.  Prompt attention is key to a successful outcome.

References

Flagg SV, Finseth FJ, Krizek TJ. Ring avulsion injury. Plast Reconstr Surg. 1977;59:241–8.

Brooks D, et al. Ring avulsion: injury pattern, treatment, and outcome. Clinics in Plastic Surgery April 2007 ;34(2):187-95, viii.

Fejjal N, Belmir R, Mazouz S El, Gharib NE, et al. Finger avulsion injuries:  A report of four cases.  Indian J Orthop. 2008 Apr-Jun; 42(2): 208–211.

Sears ED, Chung KC.  Replantation of finger avulsion injuries:  A systematic review of survival and functional outcomes.  J Hand Surg Am. 2011;36(4):686-94.

 

Baseball Fit – Preventive Exercises for a Winning Season

As weather warms and winter sports wind down, attention turns to the promise of a new baseball season and the championships ahead.

Now is the time to begin preparing.High School baseball

At the core of a successful team are strong players – physically strong, well rested and well conditioned.

Baseball is one of the few sports played almost daily throughout the entire season.  For young players beginning in little league, this amounts to a lot of plays by high school.  The frequency of repetitive stress injuries in youth baseball have increased over the years, particularly with the rise in special “elite” teams and extended seasons. This is most evident in young pitchers, on which much research has focused and for which Pitch Count guidelines have been developed.

Although baseball is not considered a contact sport, injuries can result from contact with the ball and other players, as well as poor form/technique, or an awkward movement during a play.

Some of the most common baseball injuries include:

  • Injuries in the shoulder and elbow (Little Leaguer’s Shoulder, Little Leaguer’s Elbow)
  • Knee injuries
  • Muscle pulls
  • Ligament injuries
  • Fractures (Finger, Distal Radius/Wrist)
  • Concussions 

While some injuries resulting from collision with another player are getting hit by the ball cannot be avoided, exercise can aid in reducing risks or preventing many repetitive stress related injuries.

Repetitive injuries are the result of repetitive use, stress and trauma to the soft tissues of the body (muscles, tendons, bones and joints), which are not given adequate time for proper healing. They are sometimes called cumulative trauma, repetitive stress or overuse injuries.

To avoid such repetitive stress conditions and muscle fatigue, players should have a dedicated fitness program – ideally one that is also specific to the position they play.  This should include overall strengthening and endurance, along with specific exercises to equally strengthen the muscles of the limb(s) most used. Such fitness programs should also include stretching and rest between play.

Exercise programs should also be age appropriate. Young, developing players are encouraged to build strength through resistance rather than weights. Involvement in other seasonal sports such as swimming and running can also provide excellent overall strengthening and endurance.

Strength and Conditioning Exercises – Upper Body

As a throwing sport, exercises for baseball concentrate heavily on the upper body – arms and shoulder. Core strength is also essential for pitching velocity, hitting power and running speed.

The key to any exercise program is the balanced/equal strengthening of muscle groups. For the upper body, this includes triceps/biceps, trapezius, rotator group, and deltoids.

Some Effective Arm, Shoulder and Core Exercises Include:

  • Resistance bands – These can be effective in building arm and shoulder strength. (View video on how these bands are used in exercise programs.)
  • Push ups – Traditional push ups are very effective in building upper body strength (arms, shoulders, back and core/abdominal muscles).
  • Pull ups – Using your own body weight/strength these work on the biceps, upper shoulder and back, upper abdominals and obliques.
  • The Plank – strengthens the core, lower back and oblique muscles. (View video demonstration of the Plank.)

Exercises to Improve Leg Strength

Lower body strength and conditioning is as important as upper body training for young athletes. Leg strength impacts throwing velocity, bat speed/force and running speed.

Squats, lunges and running are among the most effective ways to strengthen the lower body.

Stretching

Stretching is a very important part of an exercise program for athletes in any sport. During exercise and play muscles contract. When muscles contract, they produce tension at the point where the muscle is connected to the tendon. Stretching helps lengthen, relax and restore muscles to their natural state.

Stretching following activity is as important as stretching while warming up before practice and play.

Some easy, yet effective stretches include:

  • Elbow Pulls – Raise the right arm as though asking a question and drop the forearm behind the head though leaving the elbow in the air. Pull the elbow to the left with the left arm until you feel the stretch, hold briefly then repeat several times. Do the same on the opposite side.
  • Cross Body Arm Pulls – Straighten your right arm and pull it across the front of your body, cradling the forearm and elbow with the left hand, pull the arm towards the left across the body until you feel the stretch. Hold the stretch briefly, then repeat on the opposite side.
  • Shoulder Stretch – Lay face down on a floor mat and stretch arms overhead to form a “Y,” with palms facing down on the floor. With forehead on the ground, retract shoulder blades while lifting arms off the ground (still outstretched). Hold for a couple of seconds while squeezing the shoulder blades together. Be careful not to “shrug” the shoulders up. Return to starting position and perform several sets of 10 repetitions. To work the back a little differently, perform this same exercise with the arms straight out to your sides, forming the shape of a “T.”
  • Runner’s Lunge – Position into a deep lunge on your right leg, drop the knee of your left leg and lean forward over the right quad until you feel the stretch, hold for several seconds. Repeat on opposite leg.
  • Hamstring Stretch – Stand flat on the floor with feet a little less than hip width apart. Lean forward and place palm of your hands flat on the floor just in front of your feet, hold for several seconds.

TOP PREVENTION TIP

Resting is as important as any of the components in a successful training program.

Protecting Fingers in Fall Sports

Behind the catches, interceptions, tips, tackles and returns are some of the most commonly reported sports injuries in football, as well as other fall and winter sports – finger injuries.Football Finger Injuries

Finger injuries actually represent one of the most common body injuries in sports in general and include sprains, dislocations, tendon damage and fractures. They are very common in football, basketball and volleyball.

Rarely does a finger injury go unnoticed.  They can be very painful and more challenging to heal, as our hands are constantly in use in everyday activity.Basketball Finger Injuries

Some of the most common causes of a finger sports injury include:

  • Struggle to maintain (as well as strip) a football
  • Clashes with teammates and opponents
  • Awkward and sudden impact with a ball
  • Catching or pulling on a jersey
  • Falls onto a hard surface

Sprains and DislocationsVolley Ball Finger Injuries

Finger sprains generally represent damage to the collateral ligaments, which are band-like structures that stabilize the finger and prevent side to side movement. It most frequently occurs in the mid finger. The little finger, middle finger and thumb are the fingers most affected in such injuries.

A finger sprain can vary in severity and is graded on a scale of 1-3. Grade 1 represents the mildest type of sprain, a stretched ligament.  Grade 2 is a partially torn ligament, and Grade 3 represents one that is completely torn.  When a Grade 3 finger sprain is sustained and bones are also out of place, altering joint surface contact, it is diagnosed as a finger dislocation.

A finger dislocation may be identified as an MCP (metacarpophalangeal), DIP (distal interphalangeal) or PIP (proximal interphalangeal) dislocation depending on the finger joint and bone it affects.

Finger sprains are also often referred to as a “jammed finger.”

Depending on the severity of a “jammed finger,” symptoms may include:

Finger Anatomy

 

  • Pain and immediate swelling
  • Bruising and pain during activity
  • Impaired function
  • Deformity
  • Stiffness and difficulty during gripping activity

Tendon Injuries

Tendons in the hand are tissues connecting muscle to bone, which when contracted pull on bones causing fingers to move. These muscles moving the fingers and thumb are located in the forearm – long tendons extending through the wrist and attaching to the small bones of the fingers and thumb.

The tendons on the top of the hand straighten the fingers and are known as extensor tendons. Those on the palm side bend the fingers and are known as the flexor tendons.

When fingers are bent or straightened, the flexor tendons slide through snug tunnels, called tendon sheaths, keeping the tendons in place next to the bones.  A tendon rupture disrupts this natural flow.

A relatively common tendon injury of the hand diagnosed in fall sports is a tendon rupture, also called a “Jersey Finger.”  This occurs in a “tear-away” type of activity, such as grasping a jersey with finger(s) in a flexed position – and then forced straight as the player quickly moves in another direction.  The result is loss of flexion at the DIP joint because of damage to the flexor tendon.

An injury to the tip of the finger may result in extensor tendon damage, which is also known as a “Mallet Finger.”

Symptoms of a flexor or extensor tendon rupture may include:

Flexor

  • An inability to bend one or more joints of your finger
  • Pain when your finger is bent
  • Tenderness along your finger on the palm side of your hand
  • Swelling of the finger

Extensor

  • Inability to open or extend the hand or fingers
  • Pain
  • Swelling or weakness of the finger
  • Cut to the back of the hand or fingers

Finger Fractures

Among the more severe finger injuries occurring in sports are finger fractures.  This is a break in one of the small bones of the finger.  Finger fractures may be stable or unstable.  Among the most common finger fractures include; distal phalanx (also known as a Tuft Fracture and associated with “crush” injuries), mallet, flexor digitorum profundus avulsion, and middle and proximal phalanx fractures (non-displaced, unstable, or displaced – which are usually more complex fractures to treat).

The correct diagnoses and treatment of a finger fracture, which can often mimic a finger sprain or dislocation in pain and symptoms, is imperative in ensuring optimal long-term function.

DIAGNOSIS

While many finger injuries can be diagnosed with a physical examination, an x-ray is indicated to more thoroughly assess the injured area or possible fracture – and severity of the injury. A CT scan may also be used to evaluate complex fractures. An MRI is often used when the soft tissues are involved (such as with tendon ruptures).

TREATMENT

Treatment for most finger injuries is nonsurgical, conservative approach that may involve RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), splinting, anti inflammatory medications for swelling/pain, and rehabilitation exercises.  Reduction may be performed on some simple fractures and supported with splinting or “buddy taping” (practice of taping the injured finger to a nearby uninjured finger to limit mobility and provide splint-like support).

More serious injuries and those unresponsive to conservative treatment may require surgical repair and an aggressive post-surgical hand and upper extremity therapy program.

PREVENTING INJURY

Injury prevention is always preferable for athletes wanting to give it their all during the sports season.  There are some things you can do to reduce risk of injury during sports this fall and the seasons to come:

  • Avoid wearing rings or other jewelry when playing.
  • Opt for closed fist rather than open hand approaches in volleyball and blocking in football.
  • Buddy taping (as mentioned above) can also be effective in preventing finger injury in a number of different sports.
  • Finger bracing should be worn in both practice and games until symptoms of a mildly injured/painful finger resolves, to avoid more serious injury/damage.
  • Finger and hand strengthening exercises can be beneficial.