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Adult Use of Complementary and Integrative Approaches to Improve Athletic Performance

Context: In the United States in 2007, approximately 38% of adults, or 4 in 10, used some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). An area in which little is known is the personal integration of CAM therapies by those individuals seeking to improve athletic performance. Objectives: The study intended to assess the use of integrative care by adult athletes in the United States as well as their satisfaction with it, as reported in the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Design: A secondary analysis of the data from the Adult Alternative Health/Complementary Medicine file of the 2012 NHIS was performed. Setting: The analysis was performed at the Research Institute of Parker University (Dallas, TX, USA). Participants: The NHIS survey was a representative sample of Americans, with more than 30 000 respondents. Outcome Measures: National population estimates were generated for all related variables. The study assessed the likelihood that a respondent who reported use of a specific complementary and integrative therapy as their first top therapeutic modality to enhance sport or athletic performance had perceived it helpful compared with those who used it for other non-sport-related reasons. Results: Complementary and integrative therapies were used by more than 14 million adults (20.5%) to improve athletic performance, with 97.6% of them perceiving therapies as helpful. The most used therapies were yoga, herbal supplements, manipulation, and massage. The median age of those reporting specific use to improve athletic performance was slightly less than 38 y, and women were almost 3 times as likely as men to report therapies as helpful. Conclusions: Complementary and integrative therapies were used for improvement of athletic performance by respondents of the 2012 NHIS, with high satisfaction among users. Future research could evaluate athletic-specific use, adverse effects, physiological mechanisms that may exist for the modalities, and ways to integrate these methods better with traditional medical care.

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