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Ibuprofen in Athletics

Posted by Stephen Regenold Dec 17, 2008

A recent column I wrote on unorthodox techniques for marathon running here. . .

 

http://www.active.com/gear/Articles/The_Gear_Junkie__8_Tips_to_Make_it_Through_a_Marathon.htm

 

. . . included a mention of ibuprofen. I claim the anti-inflammatory drug has helped me make it through several endurance events, which it has. Without ibuprofen, my back and legs have cramped up to the point where I cannot run without great pain. In the last five years, the drug has helped me on eight marathons, triathlons, ultras and adventure races up to 10 days in length.

 

So it was with some dismay that I read through the onslaught of negative comments about my choice to use ibuprofen. But the Active readers were right to question my medical advice. After some investigation, I found that some medical studies link the ingestion of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin, and naproxen sodium (Aleve) during athletics to gastrointestinal issues and poor fluid transport in the body. This can -- in the worst cases -- lead to an increased risk of hyponatremia, dehydration, and, at the extreme, kidney failure.

 

Scary stuff.

 

As I said, my experience with ibuprofen over the years has been a positive one. I have never suffered ill effect. My bill of health is clean.

 

But anything that masks pain might cause injury. And overuse of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, by the looks of the studies, can result in health issues to avoid at all costs.

 

My research has given me pause. I will be more conservative when taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and other pain-masking drugs during an event. But I have no plans to stop using ibuprofen outright, at least for the time being.

 

My advice at this point: Always consult with a doctor, not just a journalist, before taking drugs for any event.

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