Injectable Ketorolac and Corticosteroid Use in Athletes: A Systematic Review

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Sports Health


CONTEXT: The use of injectable medications to help athletes quickly return to the field of play after injury is common. Understanding the effects and risks of these medications will help providers make informed decisions regarding their use in this patient population.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the utilization, efficacy, and adverse effects of injectable ketorolac and corticosteroids in athletes.

DATA SOURCES: This systematic review followed the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines. A systematic search of the literature was performed using multiple databases (PubMed, Embase, Cochrane, Web of Science, and Secondary references were appraised for relevant articles. No randomized controlled trials or other prospective studies were identified. Articles included retrospective database reviews and physician survey studies.

STUDY SELECTION: A total of 6 studies met the inclusion and exclusion criteria and were reviewed by 2 independent reviewers with a third consulted in the case of disagreement, which was not needed.

STUDY DESIGN: Systematic review.


DATA EXTRACTION: Two reviewers recorded rate of use, effectiveness of treatment, and reported side effect data.

RESULTS: Most studies centered around the football athlete, either professional or collegiate. Professional football game day use of intramuscular ketorolac declined from 93.3% (28/30) in 2002 to 48% in 2016. Collegiate football game day use of intramuscular ketorolac declined from 62% in 2008 to 26% in 2016. Game day corticosteroid injection was far lower than ketorolac usage. Both medications were reported to be effective with few adverse events.

CONCLUSION: Use of injectable ketorolac is common but declining in professional and college football. Pain control efficacy is good, and risk of adverse events is low. The incidence of injectable corticosteroid use in athletes is unknown. Use of injectable corticosteroids in athletes allows for early return to sport activities with no reported complications.

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