Use of NSAIDs in triathletes: prevalence, level of awareness and reasons for use

Br J Sports Med. 2011 Feb;45(2):85-90. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2009.062166. Epub 2009 Aug 6.


Objective: to determine the level of awareness regarding nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and the prevalence and reasons for their consumption among athletes competing at the 2008 Brazil Ironman Triathlon (3.8 km swim, 180 km cycle and 42.2 km run).

Design: survey study.

Setting: 2008 Brazil Ironman Triathlon, Florianópolis, Brazil, May 2008.

Participants: 327 Of the 1250 athletes competing at the 2008 Brazil Ironman Triathlon were enrolled in the study.

Main outcome measures: athletes answered a questionnaire about NSAID effects, side effects and consumption at the bike checkout or awards lunch.

Results: 196 (59.9%) Athletes reported using NSAIDs in the previous 3 months; of these, 25.5% (n=50), 17.9% (n=35) and 47.4% (n=93) consumed NSAIDs the day before, immediately before and during the race, respectively. Among NSAID users, 48.5% (n=95) consumed them without medical prescription. The main reason given for NSAID consumption in the previous 3 months was the treatment of injuries, while the main reason given for consuming NSAIDs during the race was pain prevention. Despite anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, most athletes were unaware of the effects of NSAIDs, and the only adverse effects known by most athletes were the gastrointestinal complications.

Conclusions: this study found a high prevalence of NSAID consumption, limited awareness of the effects and side effects of them and a high rate of nonprescribed use. It is suggested that long-distance triathlon events include in their programmes educational devices such as talks or folders about NSAID use, effects and side effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Athletes / psychology*
  • Athletic Injuries / drug therapy
  • Bicycling / statistics & numerical data*
  • Brazil
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / prevention & control
  • Running / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Swimming / statistics & numerical data*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal