With the recent outcome of the inquest into the death of Brighton Marathon runner Sam Harper Brighouse, a lot has been made of the link to the energy gels he consumed during the race. But the thing that caught my attention was the fact that he had taken approximately 4 ibuprofen tablets either before or during the race.
Non Steroidal Anti Inflamatories (NSAIDs), are an incredibly common part of many endurance athletes arsenal, but few realise the potential risks involved with taking them during exercise. Aside from affecting kidney function (Ultrarunner Erik Skaggs partly attributes his renal failure post 100k race to ibuprofen), a study conducted in 2011 showed evidence that taking ibuprofen when exercising led to increased intestinal leakage. Digestion becomes a luxury during exercise and blood flow is diverted away from the intestines, and some of the starved cells become traumatised and start to leak. This is something that can happen anyway during an endurance event, but was significantly increased by ibuprofen. For someone that takes them on a regular basis, this could have serious long term consequences. Another study conducted around the Western States 100 mile run found that participants that were regular ibuprofen users had traces of colonic bacteria in their bloodstream!
Yet many runners continue to pop them like tictacs, even during a marathon. I actually got into a heated debate with a fellow runner during the Brighton marathon in April after I saw him extoling the virtues of anti inflamatories to someone else as they ran, even going so far as to offer her some! As politely as I could (bearing in mind I was having the worst race of my life) I offered him my opinion. The words stupid and idiot may have been used (among others). Needless to say, I got my point across.
Ibuprofen in the right situation and context can be a good thing, but pain is the bodies way of telling you something is wrong and masking it with anti inflamatories can only be a bad thing in my opinion, especially during exercise.