Current concepts: Recognition and management of common activity-related gastrointestinal disorders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sports medicine clinicians may encounter a wide variety of activity-related gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. The advancing ages and burgeoning obesity rates of the US population have generally increased the prevalence of GI conditions among adults. However, conditioned younger athletes with normal body mass indices also may experience disquieting activity-related GI disorders. While often mild and transient, some of these GI conditions may disrupt exercise routines or pose significant health risks to affected individuals. Gastroesophageal reflux occurs frequently during physical activity and should be empirically treated with activity reduction and dietary modifications in conjunction with antisecretory agents. Persistent or worrisome symptoms merit upper endoscopy, a thorough evaluation for non-GI causes and, rarely, surgery. Altered GI motility commonly occurs during vigorous activities that use dynamic or fluctuating body positions. Dietary and exercise modifications are usually enough to resolve these symptoms. Physical activity may also precipitate GI bleeding from upper and/or lower sources. Although mild or occult bleeding is most common, significant bleeding merits a thorough diagnostic evaluation after stabilization and treatment. Adequate hydration and gradual exercise progression may be particularly helpful to prevent the recurrence of bleeding. The judicious use of medications in conjunction with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug avoidance may also be necessary. Fortunately, most activity-related GI disorders are self-limited and can be managed conservatively. After a brief period of modified activity, clinically stable individuals may progress their activity levels as symptoms allow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-63
Number of pages10
JournalPhysician and Sportsmedicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2009


  • Altered gastrointestinal motility
  • Exercise
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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