Preparing for their junior year state cross country meet, Student A thought it would be advantageous for them to take some pain medication. They thought it would keep them from feeling any pain if they got hurt, so they ingested six ibuprofen pills before the meet.
These pain relieving medications, like many others, can help or hinder the body. When taken in amounts higher than recommended, the odds become significantly higher of there being an adverse effect. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen are used to lower swelling and inflammation as well as reduce pain. NSAIDs are most commonly used by athletes to help with soreness, muscle aches and other injuries after games.
Instead, a new trend is presenting itself where pain relievers are being taken in excess in an attempt to stop or lessen pain before a game or practice even starts.
Athletes may sometimes take up to an entire day’s worth of medication all at once, putting their body at risk of kidney failure while not seeing any results. “I had pain in my stomach,” Student A said. “It didn’t help the way I wanted to.”
Taking these several pills at one time trying to ease pain before it begins can leave the individuals in more pain than they would have been in without the medication. Not to mention, their risk of bodily harm and an increase in vulnerability to more serious issues down the road increase exponentially.
If an athlete is injured during a match, the medicine given by an official might not even take affect due to their body already “maxing out” from another medication. “If you are taking four or five at a time, two or three times a day, your kidneys are working overtime to filter that out,” Athletic Trainer Chris Wiedmann said.
As a member of the baseball team, Student B has been taking ibuprofen prior to games and practices in an attempt to relieve pain. They got the idea after a teammate had been doing the same thing. “A kid on my team had some and told me to take some before our game,” Student B said. “It helped a lot for the pain I was having and I’ve been taking them ever since.” Student B does not take ibuprofen before practices daily, just before games and some practices.
Student C is also a baseball player. “I take like five at a time before a game or sometimes before practice,” they said. “It just kind of numbs you and you can’t feel any pain.”
Only a small handful of students athletes are overdosing on pain relievers out of the whole, but testify to its effectiveness. Although the three have not noticed any negative side effects, taking ibuprofen in excess can also upset the stomach lining and cause bleeding ulcer on top of the kidney and liver damage.
When taking medication for too long, it is inevitable for people to build a tolerance. Tolerance, when the body requires more and more of the substance to get the same effect, can be harmful and lead people to taking more intense drugs to reach the desired effects. “If you’re consuming too much, your body will get used to that medication,” Weidmann said. “They’ll stop being effective over time.”
Activities Director Gary Ross thinks the ibuprofen usage is a gray area. “Ibuprofen is a very appropriate thing to take as long as it’s for the right reasons and the right amount,” he said. “If it’s abused to the amount of becoming an addiction or overdose-type [of] situation, that would be something I’d be very concerned about.”