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Sports Medicine Feature

Source: Wikimedia Commons and Anthony22

Is Topical Ibuprofen Better for Injured Athletes?

Tracey Romero • Fri, October 27th, 2017

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In a new review, “Topical Administration of Ibuprofen for Injured Athletes: Considerations, Formulations, and Comparison to Oral Delivery,” published in the October, 2017 issue of Sports Medicine, researchers explored current data on the benefits of topical ibuprofen for injured athletes.

According to the review, “Topically administered ibuprofen has been shown to be equally effective to orally administered ibuprofen in the treatment of joint and soft tissue injury and is associated with a lower incidence of unwanted gastrointestinal side effects.”

The authors of the review explained that while non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) have a strong safety profile, those who use them to treat chronic injuries are at a high risk of gastrointestinal side effects. NSAIDS have also been shown to reduce the cardiovascular protective benefits of low-dose aspirin when taken together.

Not many studies have been conducted on topical ibuprofen as a treatment for acute soft tissue injuries, but they cited one March 2002 study in the International Journal of Clinical Practice that found that 75% of patients using topical ibuprofen experience a significant reduction in pain at seven days compared to 39% of patients who received a placebo.

More research is needed especially on how certain factors like skin hydration, skin temperature and disease state can affect the performance of topical ibuprofen.

The researchers wrote, “Further studies are needed to compare topical efficacy to other transdermal delivery methods and skin permeation enhancers. Comparative studies between ibuprofen and other topical NSAIDS (e.g., diclofenac, ketoprofen) are also necessary to determine the optimal pharmaceutical choice for acute soft tissue and articular injury in athletes.”

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