Objective: To examine medication use in male top-level football players prior to and during international tournaments.
Design: Prospective survey.
Material: 2944 team physicians’ reports on players’ medication intake.
Methods: Each team physician was asked to document all medication and nutritional supplements taken in the 72 h prior to each match.
Results: A total of 10 384 substances were reported (1.8 substances/player/match); 4450 (42.9%) of these were medicinal and 5934 (57.1%) nutritional supplements. The medications prescribed most frequently were non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (n = 2092; 20.1%); more than half of the players took these at least once during a tournament and more than 10% prior to every match (156 out of 1472). β-2-Agonists were reported for 1.4% (n = 20) and inhaled corticosteroids for 1.6% (n = 23) of participating players. Injected corticosteroids were reported for 73 players.
Conclusions: The high intake of medication in international football – especially of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – is alarming and should be addressed. The results raise questions as to whether the medication was taken solely for therapeutic reasons. In view of the potential side effects, more restrictive recommendations for sport need to be developed.
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Competing interests: None.
Funding: This study was funded by FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association).
Ethics approval: Ethics committee approval for the study was obtained from the “Kantonale Ethikkomission” of Zurich, Switzerland.