Sabrina Sawlani DO
Pain Management in Elite Athletes: A Systematic Review
Purpose: Outline the pathophysiology of different types of pain and review the efficacy of various non-pharmacological and pharmacological strategies to manage pain in elite athletes.
Pain is common among elite athletes and can be related to sport-related injury. It is essential for athletes to pay attention to their bodies, understand the etiology of their pain, and pursue appropriate treatment to achieve success in their sport. Recent guidelines by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) provide guidance for sports medicine physicians on the non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic treatment of pain in elite athletes. This systematic review describes prevalence of use, physician prescribing patterns, athlete attitudes and experiences with pain management as well as a multitude of modalities used to treat pain.
NSAIDs are the most commonly used pain medication by elite athletes but must be considered with particular attention to their side effects. There are a myriad strategies that can be used to manage pain in elite athletes, with varying efficacies, and understanding an athlete’s experience with pain management in the past and their attitude toward treatment is arguably just as important as the treatment itself.