Objective: Analgesic/anti-inflammatory medication (AAIM) increases the risk of medical complications during endurance races. We determined how many runners use AAIM before or during races, AAIM types, and factors associated with AAIM use.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: 21.1-km and 56-km races.
Participants: Seventy-six thousand six hundred fifty-four race entrants.
Methods: Participants completed pre-race medical screening questions on AAIM use, running injury or exercise-associated muscle cramping (EAMC) history, and general medical history.
Main outcome measures: Analgesic/anti-inflammatory medication use, types of AAIM (% runners; 95% confidence interval), and factors associated with AAIM use (sex, age, race distance, history of running injury or EAMC, and history of chronic diseases) [prevalence ratio (PR)].
Results: Overall, 12.2% (12.0-12.5) runners used AAIM 1 week before and/or during races (56 km = 18.6%; 18.0-19.1, 21.1 km = 8.3%; 8.1-8.6) (P < 0.0001). During races, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (5.3%; 5.1-5.5) and paracetamol (2.6%; 2.4-2.7) were used mostly. Independent factors (adjusted PR for sex, age, and race distance; P < 0.0001) associated with AAIM use were running injury (2.7; 2.6-2.9), EAMC (2.0; 1.9-2.1), cardiovascular disease (CVD) symptoms (2.1; 1.8-2.4), known CVD (1.7; 1.5-1.9), CVD risk factors (1.6; 1.5-1.6), allergies (1.6; 1.5-1.7), cancer (1.3; 1.1-1.5), and respiratory (1.7; 1.6-1.8), gastrointestinal (2.0; 1.9-2.2), nervous system (1.9; 1.7-2.1), kidney/bladder (1.8; 1.6-2.0), endocrine (1.5; 1.4-1.7), and hematological/immune (1.5; 1.2-1.8) diseases.
Conclusions: 12.2% runners use AAIM before and/or during races, mostly NSAIDs. Factors (independent of sex, age, and race distance) associated with AAIM use were history of injuries, EAMC, and numerous chronic diseases. We suggest a pre-race screening and educational program to reduce AAIM use in endurance athletes to promote safer races.