Topical Administration of Ibuprofen for Injured Athletes: Considerations, Formulations, and Comparison to Oral Delivery

Martin Anthony Christopher Manoukian, Christopher William Migdal, Amode Ravindra Tembhekar, Jerad Alexander Harris, Charles Demesa

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a class of drugs commonly used to treat both the acute and chronic injuries sustained by athletes during training and competition. In many parts of the world, NSAIDs can be purchased over-the-counter and used without any physician oversight. However, the chronic nature of overuse injuries requires NSAIDs to be taken orally for an extended period of time. As a result, they can have significant adverse effects on athletes, namely gastrointestinal (GI), renal, and cardiovascular damage. Dyspepsia and upper GI ulceration and bleeding are of great concern in chronic NSAID use, and as such oral NSAIDs are generally contraindicated in those with a history of peptic ulcers or irritable bowel disease. In the setting of chronic overuse soft tissue or joint disease, topically administered NSAIDs offer an alternate route of administration that has the potential to deliver a similar level of pain and anti-inflammatory relief while bypassing the harmful side effects associated with oral intake. Topically applied NSAIDs are able to achieve high concentrations within the targeted site of action while simultaneously keeping plasma concentrations low, offering several advantages over oral administration. One commonly used generic NSAID is ibuprofen (2-(4-isobutylphenyl)propanoic acid). First synthesized in the 1960s, ibuprofen has since become widely available as an over-the-counter pharmaceutical. In this review, we outline new and different techniques that have been used to deliver ibuprofen into diseased tissues, including supersaturations, microemulsions, gels, nanosystems, and microneedles. We also review relevant clinical trials comparing transdermally delivered ibuprofen to placebo and orally administered ibuprofen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number36
JournalSports Medicine - Open
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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