After caffeine, iburprofen is the drug of choice of my midlife athlete friends. We go for long bike rides, stop for brunch, and out come the plastic baggies filled with cell phones, mini tubes of sunblock, credit cards, cash, and inevitably a stash of pills. Vitamin I, we call it. Without which us aging athletes wouldn’t function. Or so we think.
(Okay, my plastic baggie also contains the unlikely cycling lipstick. Only Shannon understands.)
Even the urban dictionary lists Vitamin I: “Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory. Used to such a great extent by many athletes that it can be considered to have a DRI of 400-800 mg much like a real vitamin. Oh man, my shins are killing me, time to pop some vitamin I.”
But now comes the bad news. This headline certainly caught my eye, Ibuprofen use by athletes may cause harm: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories can aggravate injury to small intestine.
In a study published in the December issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, nine healthy trained men cycled using different combinations of ibuprofen, no ibuprofen and rest.
The study found that ibuprofen aggravates injury in the small intestine, based on measurements of cell leakage in the gut lining.
“We conclude that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs consumption by athletes is not harmless and should be discouraged.”
However, it wasn’t all bad news because the research also seemed to suggest there also isn’t a benefit to taking Ibuprofen
Physical therapy professor Stuart Warden of Indiana University’s school of health and rehabilitation sciences previously wrote an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine about the practice.
“There is no clinical evidence to suggest that regular use of NSAIDs reduces injury risk or improves function in the typical athlete,” Warden concluded.
Since there’s no evidence of benefit and the pain relievers are potentially doing more harm than good to the kidneys and gastrointestinal system, Warden said, there’s no reason for athletes to use NSAIDs beforehand.
“It seems to be part of the sports culture right now,” said Greg Wells, a sport scientist and physiologist based in Toronto.
This seems like a no-brainer–risk of harm, no evidence of benefit–think I’ll try post ride ice baths instead. There is evidence they help but brrrr.