For most of us, running, swimming or lifting weights are means of keeping our bodies healthy and set a counterpoint to a stressful workday. Yet an increasing number of people see their recreational fitness as competitive as their careers and will do almost anything to come out on top.
The Woeful Tale Of Alexander Dale Oen
When reigning world swimming champion Alexander Dale Oen died of heart failure in late April, the athletic world was in shock: what could have killed a 26 year old, superfit man?
Six weeks and an autopsy later the answer was that he had been trying to keep his body under control. Last winter Oen had complained about headaches and neck pain and in order to combat them went to use 13 drugs, among them the anti-inflammatories Naproxen, Etodolac and Indometacin, each one already quite potent by itself. I have no idea how apparent his condition was, but it stands out that right after his unfortunate death, his team’s doctor proclaimed that Oen “was not on any medications”.
Not Just In Professional Sports
Business as usual, you might say, in the world of professional sports. Not quite so. An increasing number of recreational athletes follows in the same footsteps.
As an example, take the findings of researchers from the University of Nürnberg-Erlangen, who questioned 4,000 participants of a marathon (PDF, German language) and discovered that more than half of them had taken a pain medication before the run – preemptively. With pain-relievers Diclofenac and Ibuprofen over Aspirin and Paracetamol to combinations of the later two with caffeine being used, half of this run looked like a traveling apothecary.
It goes without saying that all this is not without dangers. More than six grams of Paracetamol per day and you may have given your liver enough trouble to kill you, while Aspirin thins the blood barrier of your intestine, making you more susceptible to bleedings. In case of a surgery, this can prove fatal.
Of course, last but not least, pain is your body’s warning system. When those medications do their job, these alerts are turned off, and you may damage your joints, muscles, organs and bones without noticing it.
Why Do People Do This?
The question we may ask ourselves is: why do that? Why treat our bodies so badly with something meant to improve its health? The only answer I have is that many recreational athletes treat their prowess at working out in the same competitive manner as they do their jobs.
About 10% of the participants in the above marathon who used pain relievers reported intestinal cramps, blood in their urine or stool or heart arrhythmia. Way to go.