(Reuters) - Three arm fractures in the space of 10 months have left Billy Vunipola both "scared" and scarred, but the England number eight has identified a major cause for his repeated injuries and is taking steps to ensure they do not recur.
Doctors at his club side Saracens found that Vunipola's low Vitamin D levels may have contributed to his injuries and the 26-year-old is taking daily supplements to overcome the problem.
"I'm scared, not of being injured, but the process of coming back is the hardest thing," Vunipola, who returned from his latest injury layoff in Saracens' defeat by Sale Sharks last week, told The Times.
"This is probably my faith. God wanted me to be afraid. Before, I was so confident I would be all right. I guess too confident to the point that 'I'm invincible'. That's why I got injured again. So I'm trying to find my feet."
Vunipola sustained the first of his three fractures while playing for Saracens against Ospreys last January, when his right arm connected with Rob McCusker's head.
He re-fractured the same arm in the second test of England's South Africa tour, before breaking a bone in his left arm while playing for his club against Glasgow in October, ruling him out of England's November internationals.
"We did (investigate why it had happened so often). We took some blood and it showed that my Vitamin D levels were really low," Vunipola added.
Vunipola, who was born in Sydney to Tongan parents, said his darker skin might have also contributed to the deficiency.
"I think with my skin colour and not having that much sun, it has affected it. I've been on Vitamin D tablets. I am not big on tablets, so it took a lot of convincing."
On the bright side, Vunipola gets to eat more cheese as part of a dairy-rich diet to strengthen his bones.
"I have started drinking a lot more milk and eating more cheese. There are carbs in milk so I try to stay away from them. I can't eat too much cheese but I really do like camembert."
(The story was refiled to clarify the third injury was to the left arm in the sixth paragraph)
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien)