Objectives: To identify the prevalence, frequency, adverse effects, and reasons for analgesic use in youth athletes. Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Methods: Systematic searches in Embase, Medline, and SPORT-Discus from inception to September 2021, screening of reference lists, and citation tracking were performed to identify observational studies including athletes aged 15–24 years and reporting data on prevalence and/or frequency of analgesic use. Study quality was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale. Random-effect proportion meta-analyses, stratified by type of analgesic medication and prevalence measure, estimated the prevalence of analgesic use. Data on usage frequency, adverse events, and reasons for analgesic use was synthesized narratively. Results: Forty-nine studies were included (44,381 athletes), of which 19 were good/high quality. Seven categories of analgesics were identified across 10 prevalence time-points. Meta-analyses suggested common use of NSAIDs (point prevalence 48 % [95 % CI 23 % to 73 %], in-season prevalence 92 % [95 % CI 88 % to 95 %]). The lowest prevalence was found for use of local anesthetic injections within the previous 12 months (2 % [95 % CI 1 % to 3 %]). Seven to 50 % of athletes reported weekly analgesics use. The proportion of adverse events ranged from 3.3 % to 19.2 %. Reasons for using analgesics included treatment of sports-related pain or injury, to treat illness, and to enhance performance. Conclusions: Analgesics are commonly used in youth athletes, but estimates vary depending on type of analgesic and prevalence measure. As the majority of studies were of poor methodological quality, future high-quality research should include prospective data collection of analgesic use to understand consumption trajectories.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This systematic review and meta-analysis was performed as part of a PhD project funded by the Danish Ministry of Culture, The Danish Society for Sports Physical Therapy, The Beckett Foundation, Østifterne f.m.b.a, and the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southern Denmark.
JRP has received funding for the submitted work from Danish Ministry of Culture, The Danish Society for Sports Physical Therapy, The Beckett Foundation, Østifterne f.m.b.a, and the Faculty of Health, University of Southern Denmark. JBT holds a grant from Pfizer unrelated to the submitted work. The remaining authors declare no conflicts of interest.
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