Glucocorticoid Prescribing Habits of Sports Medicine Physicians Working in High-Performance Sport: A 30-nation Survey

Glucocorticoid Prescribing Habits of Sports Medicine Physicians Working in High-Performance Sport : A 30-nation Survey / David Hughes, Nicole Vlahovich, Marijke Welvaert, Nicolin Tee, Peter Harcourt, Susan White, Alan Vernec, Ken Fitch, Gordon Waddington. -
(British Journal of Sports Medicine (2020) 5 feb).
- PMID: 32024647.
- DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2019-101175


Glucocorticoids are commonly prescribed in medicine. When administered via certain routes, glucocorticoids are prohibited for incompetition use by WADA. The glucocorticoid prescribing habits of sports medicine doctors have not been reported.

An online survey was distributed internationally to physicians working in high-performance sports. The survey queried the doctors about their use of glucocorticoids with athletes and their understanding of WADA’s regulations regarding glucocorticoid use in competition.

603 sports medicine doctors from 30 different countries participated. The majority (>85%) routinely injected glucocorticoids and/or prescribed glucocorticoids by other routes. There were substantial differences in the common routes of injection as well as types of glucocorticoid used among the physicians from various countries. A relatively small percentage of sports doctors (<25%) accurately identified which routes of glucocorticoid administration are prohibited in competition by WADA. There was a great variation in how long before competition the use of glucocorticoids would cause the doctor to consider applying for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE). A better understanding of the clearance rates of glucocorticoids from athletes’ bodies would greatly aid sports medicine doctors’ decisions on how and when to apply for a TUE. A small number of doctors had observed side effects of glucocorticoid administration, with the majority of side effects being minor in nature.

Glucocorticoids are widely prescribed by sports physicians. There is a need to better educate sports physicians on the current WADA regulations in relation to glucocorticoid administration.


Research / Study
5 February 2020
Fitch, Ken
Harcourt, Peter Rex
Hughes, David
Tee, Nicolin
Vernec, Alan
Vlahovich, Nicole
Waddington, Gordon
Welvaert, Marijke
White, Susan
Other organisations
Australian Football League (AFL)
Australian Institute of Sport (AIS)
Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre (OPSMC)
University of Canberra (UC)
University of Western Australia (UWA)
World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)
Doping classes
S9. Glucocorticosteroids
Medical terms
Legitimate Medical Treatment
Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE)
Athlete support personnel
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Date generated
23 January 2020
Date of last modification
13 February 2020
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