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Appears in Collections:Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Walking the line? An investigation into elite athletes' sport-related use of painkillers and their willingness to use analgesics to train or compete when injured
Author(s): Overbye, Marie
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Keywords: culture of risk
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
occupational health
playing hurt
risk acceptance
Issue Date: 16-Dec-2020
Citation: Overbye M (2020) Walking the line? An investigation into elite athletes' sport-related use of painkillers and their willingness to use analgesics to train or compete when injured. International Review for the Sociology of Sport.
Abstract: Pain and injuries are inevitable occupational hazards and health risks in athletes’ working lives. The sport-related use of analgesics with and without injury is widespread. Taking analgesics to compete while injured is conceptualised as a sickness-presenteeism problem. This study examines the complexity of the sport-related use of analgesics in elite sport. A mixed-method design was adopted consisting of a survey (n=775) and interviews (n=21) with elite athletes. Many athletes reported a sport-related use of analgesics. Analgesics had commonly been used to enable an injured athlete to: compete in an important match; train during an important period; qualify for an important match/final; and keep one’s position on the team or have one’s contract prolonged. Particularly team-sport athletes had experience of such use. Apart from the therapeutic use of analgesics, they were sometimes integrated into different routines, for example enhancing performance, avoid lowering performance, aiding recovery, training/competing injured, and prophylactic use. Simultaneously, many had refrained from using or sought to minimise their sport-related use of analgesics; reasons were related to: trust in/feeling the body, side-effects, knowledge and social norms. Social norms and interaction with support personnel played a key role. Physiotherapists and doctors often advised athletes on analgesics, but self-administered use was widespread. How risk cultures manifested themselves varied greatly between sports, and gender differences were scarce. Although, ‘absenteeism’ is also present a majority of athletes would be willing to ‘walk the line’, using analgesics to compete when injuries may threaten their career or sporting success.
DOI Link: 10.1177/1012690220973552
Rights: [Overbye 2020 IRSS.pdf] The publisher does not allow this work to be made publicly available in this Repository. Please use the Request a Copy feature at the foot of the Repository record to request a copy directly from the author. You can only request a copy if you wish to use this work for your own research or private study.
[Painkillers in sport_accepted 2020.pdf] Overbye M, Walking the line? An investigation into elite athletes’ sport-related use of painkillers and their willingness to use analgesics to train or compete when injured, International Review for the Sociology of Sport (Forthcoming). Copyright © The Author 2020. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications. Reuse is restricted to non-commercial and no derivative uses. DOI:
Notes: Output Status: Forthcoming/Available Online
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