Distance runners may be placing their kidneys at risk by using Advil or other ibuprofen-based painkillers to avoid joint and muscle pain, according to the findings of new research.
In a study published last week in the Emergency Medical Journal, researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine indicate that taking ibuprofen to help compete in ultramarathons may double the risk of acute kidney injury.
The practice is utilized by an estimated 75% of long-distance runners.
Ibuprofen, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), is the active ingredient in a number of over-the-counter pain killers, including Motrin, Advil and Midol. It is so commonly used among athletes that many of them refer to it as “Vitamin I.”
The study involved a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial among 89 participants across the globe, about half of whom used ibuprofen to run a 50-mile race and half of whom were given a placebo.
According to the findings, those who took ibuprofen had more than twice the risk of developing an acute kidney injury, which the lead researcher warned could develop into kidney failure.
“In medical school, we were all taught to be careful of ibuprofen because it decreases blood flow to the kidneys,” lead study author Dr. Grant Lipman,a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine, and director of Stanford Wilderness Medicine, said in a Stanford University press release. “Basically, for every five runners who took ibuprofen, there was one additional case of acute kidney injury. That’s a pretty high rate.”
The researchers concluded that the higher risk appeared to be to the distance runners and endurance athletes, however, they said that the same risks do not appear to extend to use by the general public or other types of athletes.
The study found that acute kidney injury occurs among between 35% and 85% of distance runners, but in most cases those injuries resolve themselves in a day. However, the use of ibuprofen may exacerbate those injuries and increase the risk of kidney failure.
Lipman admitted that he and the other researchers were surprised by the finding, and expected to find that ibuprofen was not a factor in kidney injuries.