In order to protect the interests of our fellow Wa-Hi staff, we’ve chosen to keep these opinions anonymous.
Being an athlete inherently comes with some sore days. Between training, games and injuries, it’s often hard to find time to give your body the rest it needs. How do student athletes keep themselves going? Protein shakes? A full nine hours of sleep? A good breakfast, with a balanced daily diet?
Some student athletes will turn to over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications like ibuprofen and Tylenol first, before they try anything else to relieve their aching muscles and tired bodies. Even still, is OTC doping really that common among student athletes?
“In high school sports, I do think they [OTC pain medications] are taken regularly by athletes, although less now than in previous years,” a Wa-Hi coach said. This decrease in use could be due to an influx in research, showing that when ibuprofen and Tylenol are taken on a daily basis, they can cause numerous fairly serious side effects.
Not only can both medications seriously damage your liver and kidneys when taken in high doses over an extended period of time, but extensive short term use of these nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can lead to dizziness, drowsiness, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain and ulcers.
Another side to the OTC doping coin is that, “OTC drugs are the lesser of two evils when talking about athletes and the use of performance-enhancing drugs. So yes, they are a problem, but on the whole spectrum of performance-enhancing drugs, they’re on the lower end,” another Wa-Hi coach said.
According to Mayo Clinic in an article on Ibuprofen (Oral Route) Proper Use, “for safe and effective use of this medicine, do not take more of it, do not take it more often, and do not take it for a longer time than ordered by your doctor. Taking too much of this medicine may increase the chance of unwanted effects.” Ibuprofen (Oral Route) Proper Use. However, that brings us to the question of how often students are using these drugs to aid them on the playing field.
According to these Wa-Hi coaches, even though student athletes are using NSAIDs on a regular basis, the OTC medications are the lesser of two evils when compared to their more powerful relatives.
There is also the school of thought that athletes should not be playing if they feel like they have to take pain medication. “I believe that if your body is hurting, then your body is trying to tell you something, and it’s not a good idea to alter what you’re body is feeling, because it’s feeling that way for a reason. It may be telling you that you need to slow down, or ice, or stretch. There’s no sense in masking pain that’s still going to be there after the medication wears off,” a Wa-Hi coach said.
As athletes, we often feel pressured to compete the best we possibly can, even when things don’t feel right with our bodies; while it’s ever so easy to pop a couple pills to take the edge off, should we really be doing it?
“Personally, I do not promote the use of NSAIDS, nor even use them myself,” a Wa-Hi coach said. There are pluses and minuses to each argument, but like most things involving human health, it’s best to take everything in moderation.
While most coaches would agree that loading up on painkillers just to make it through a game is not the correct way to deal with an injury, these medications do exist for our benefit as people. According to WedMD, “pain medications are safe and effective when used as directed, however, misuse of these products can be extremely harmful and even deadly.” This means athletes must be smart in their usage and know when an injury is serious enough to warrant more than OTC painkillers.