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Use of Complementary Medicine in Competitive Sports: Results of a Cross-Sectional Study


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Complement Med Res. 2021;28(2):139-145.


Gabriele Rotter, Lisa Schollbach, Sylvia Binting, Christina Dornquast, Johannes Scherr, Florian Pfab, Benno Brinkhaus


Background: Although complementary medicine is frequently used in Germany, there is almost no information about complementary medicine use in competitive sports. The aim was to assess the use of complementary medicine among elite athletes in Germany.

Patients and methods: A cross-sectional study among athletes was performed between March 2012 and September 2013. Athletes of both sexes who visited a sports medical outpatient clinic in Munich, Bavaria were included. Data about the use of complementary medicine were collected by means of a standardized measurement instrument, the German version of the international complementary and alternative medicine questionnaire.

Results: Of the 334 athletes (female 25%, mean age 20.2 ± 6.6 years) who completed all 4 sections of the questionnaire, 69% reported the use of at least one type of complementary medicine within the last 12 months. 505 athletes (female 26%, mean age 20.5 ± 7.0 years) completed at least one section of the questionnaire entirely. Within 12 months, the osteopath (11%), herbal medicine (17%), vitamins/minerals (32%), and relaxation techniques (15%) were the most frequently visited/used in relation to the respective sections of the questionnaire.

Conclusion: Complementary medicine is frequently used by athletes in Germany. The efficacy, safety, and costs of complementary medicine should be investigated in clinical trials among athletes in the future.

Publication Date: 

2021 Jan



Rotter, G., Schollbach, L., Binting, S., Dornquast, C., Scherr, J., Pfab, F., Brinkhaus, B. (2021) 'Use of Complementary Medicine in Competitive Sports: Results of a Cross-Sectional Study ', Complement Med Res. 2021;28(2):139-145.

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