Why do athletes need opioid education and awareness?

Participation in sports can act as a protective factor against the misuse of certain drugs for adolescent athletes.

High School Athlete Injuries Per Year

– Adolescent athletes experience a great risk of injury through participation in athletics – 3, 4, 5 

Average Time Lost for Injuries Among High School Athletes
1-2 Days
3-5 Days
7-9 Days
10-21 Days
≥ 22 Days

of interscholastic sports participants are estimated to have sustained injuries that require medical attention by a physician. 3, 6

The injury risk associated with high school athletics increases the likelihood that an adolescent athlete may have access to a pain medication such as a prescription opioid. However, exposure does not necessarily lead to misuse at the time for many of these athletes.

“Those who participated in at least one interscholastic sport during high school had  greater odds of lifetime medical prescription opioid use on multiple occasions and greater odds of being approached to divert their prescribed opioid medications compared to peers that did not participate in a sport.”  6

Research has indicated that adolescent athletes may be less likely to misuse prescription opioids than non-athletes. Additional research has found that this may not be the case for certain high contact sports. 1, 2


Involvement in these high contact sports is associated with higher rates of past-year non-medical use of prescription opioids than non-participants. Participants in weightlifting report greater odds of past year heroin use and participants in ice hockey report greater odds of past-year heroin use and concurrent non-medical prescription opioid & heroin use than non-participants.


Adolescent athletes experience many benefits that result from participation in athletics, which seemingly help to alleviate the amount of misuse and abuse of prescription opioids even with increased exposure to these types of these medications. It is important to note that adolescent athletes are still an at risk population to access or misuse a prescription opioid in certain circumstances. It is necessary to provide education on opioids to prevent any possible misuse or abuse, especially to those involved in (high contact/high injury risk) sports such as wrestling, weightlifting, and ice hockey. Adolescent athletes may also experience other risks that affect non-athletes of the same age.