Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
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©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine ( 2016 ) 15 , 387 - 388

Letter to editor
Self-Medication Practice among Amateur Runners: Prevalence and Associated Factors
Médéa Locquet1 , Charlotte Beaudart1, Robert Larbuisson2, Fanny Buckinx1, Jean-François Kaux3, Jean-Yves Reginster4, Olivier Bruyère1
Author Information
1 Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Health Economics, University of Liège, Belgium; Support Unit in Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Liège, Belgium
2 Department of Anesthesiology-Reanimation, University of Liège, Belgium
3 Department of Physical Medicine and Sport Traumatology, University of Liège, Belgium; Department of Motricity Sciences, University of Liège, Belgium
4 Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Health Economics, University of Liège, Belgium

Médéa Locquet
✉ Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Health Economics, University of Liège, Belgium
Email: medea.locquet@ulg.ac.be
Publish Date
Received: 19-04-2016
Accepted: 27-04-2016
Published (online): 23-05-2016
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Dear Editor-in-chief

The term “self-medication” involves consumption, without any physician’s advice, of over-the-counter drugs but also of formerly prescribed drugs. Amateur athletes could resort frequently to self-medication for different reasons. Indeed, they may use self-medication products because they are regularly exposed to pain, tiredness, injuries and difficulties with recovery. Sometimes, they can also deliberately use medications in order to enhance their physical performance (Conrad et al., 2004). In 2015, we wanted to identify and better understand self-medication practices in an amateur sports population in the Province of Liège, Belgium. We focused especially on amateur runners because of the growing interest in this population. We went to 8 running events in order to interview amateur runners about their self-medication behaviors exclusively aiming at being better prepared for this specific race. Approval was granted by the Ethics Committee of the University Teaching Hospital of Liège. Data regarding consumption of self-medication drugs just before the running event (i.e. intake maximum last 24 hours before the race) was collected through an anonymous self-administrated questionnaire. The level and intensity of usual sports practice, the membership to a sports club and the length of the race on that specific day (10 or 21km) were also recorded. A total of 358 amateur runners, mainly composed of men (62.0%) with a median age of 39 years (IQR: 29-49) have volunteered. Among the 358 respondents, 112 runners (31.3%) had taken self-medication drugs during the period immediately preceding the running event (i.e. maximum last 24 hours), with the aim of being better prepared for this specific race. Athletes declared consuming self-medication drugs before the race mainly to reduce pain (36.1%) and headaches (16.6%) but also in order to improve their physical performance (9.9%) (Table 1). The two therapeutic classes most often reported were analgesics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Out of the 112 runners who consumed self-medication drugs, 67.0% attested having consumed only one drug before running and 32.1% consumed 2 or more drugs. When we compared characteristics of runners who used self-medication drugs with those who did not, no differences were found regarding gender, age, body mass index and level of education (Table 2). Neither did we noticed significant differences relative to the number of health ailments and the number of sports activities. However, the median time of sports practiced weekly was significantly superior in the group who used self-medication drugs compared to the one who did not (p-value < 0.001). Runners are more likely to use self-medication drugs if they are member of a sports club (p-value = 0.001) and if they run longer distances (p-value = 0.017). A logistic regression confirmed these observations: the probability of using self-medication drugs was 1.17-fold increased (95% CI: 1.10-1.24, p-value < 0.001) depending on the number of hours of weekly sports activity, 2.04-fold (95% CI: 1.22-3.41, p-value = 0.006) depending on the membership to a sports club and 1.09-fold (95%CI: 1.03-1.14, p-value=0.002) depending on the length of the race.

In other studies on self-medication in amateur athletes (Chester et al., 2003; Fraisse et al., 2005), a slightly higher prevalence is observed than in our survey (more than 60% of self-medication practice compared to around 30% in our survey). Such discrepancies can easily be explained by the fact that these studies only focused on self-medication behaviors in usual lifestyle, practiced of course by most individuals of the overall population. In our case, we were interested in athletes’ self-medication behaviors for a specific sports event, which allowed us to highlight short-term risk of this kind of behaviors. Our survey also showed a significant increase of the probability of using self-medication products with the number of hours of sports practice, with the membership to a sports club and with the length of the race. It is not unexpected to observe a relationship with the intensity of physical activity but the membership to a sports club seems more surprising. Some studies on self-medication (Badiger et al., 2012; Sarahroodi et al., 2012) suggested that social environment (e.g. family members, friends and peers) prompted subjects to self-medicate. A recent meta-analysis (Ntoumanis et al., 2014) also highlighted the importance of social influence in the use of products to improve sports performance. Through our survey, we also demonstrated that the two therapeutic agents most consumed were non-opioid analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Nevertheless, using these drugs could lead to an acute risk of worsening traumatic injuries (Ziltener et al., 2010) by masking symptoms of pain. It can also lead to unexpected side effects for those who take these drugs through self-medication practices. Numerous runners also asserted using several active substances in a combined way: the risks of drug interactions were multiplied. Then, we noticed that self-medication practices among our sample could lead to harmful consequences for amateur athletes’ health. However, even if several statically significant relations were established through our investigation, it is essential to interpret these with caution by considering them in the strict frame of our survey. Indeed, an information bias is present: all the data were self-reported and could have been relayed, voluntarily or not, in an inaccurate or erroneous way. Moreover, despite a guarantee of anonymity, some runners could have deliberately hidden relevant data (e.g. consumption of illicit products). Therefore, we can certainly suppose that prevalence of self-medication behaviors has been underestimated.

In conclusion, our survey showed that self-medication among amateur athletes is an attested and widespread behavior influenced by the intensity of physical activity and by peers. To protect athletes’ health and prevent drug misadventures, it is necessary to promote a responsible self-medication in this population.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine Médéa Locquet
Employment: Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Health Economics, University of Liège
Degree:
Research interests:
E-mail: medea.locquet@ulg.ac.be
 

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine Charlotte Beaudart
Employment: Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Health Economics, University of Liège
Degree:
Research interests:
E-mail:
 

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine Robert Larbuisson
Employment: Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Health Economics, University of Liège
Degree:
Research interests:
E-mail:
 

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine Fanny Buckinx
Employment: Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Health Economics, University of Liège
Degree:
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E-mail:
 

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine Jean-François Kaux
Employment: Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Health Economics, University of Liège
Degree:
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E-mail:
 

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine Jean-Yves Reginster
Employment: Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Health Economics, University of Liège
Degree:
Research interests:
E-mail:
 

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine Olivier Bruyère
Employment: Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Health Economics, University of Liège
Degree:
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E-mail:
 
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Journal of Sports Science and Medicine Fraisse T., Boisson N., de Wazières B. (2005) Evaluation of self-medication by scuba divers. Therapie 60, 409-412.
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine Ntoumanis N., Ng J.Y., Barkoukis V., Backhouse S. (2014) Personal and psychosocial predictors of doping use in physical activity settings: a meta-analysis. Sports Medicine 44, 1603-1624.
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine Sarahroodi S., Maleki-Jamshid A., Sawalha A.F., Mikaili P., Safaeian L. (2012) Pattern of self-medication with analgesics among Iranian University students in central Iran. Journal of Family and Community Medicine 19, 125-129.
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine Ziltener J.L., Leal S., Fournier P.E. (2010) Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for athletes: an update. Annals of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine 53, 278-282.
 
 
 
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