To review the literature guiding all aspects of the use of injectable corticosteroids for painful musculoskeletal conditions, with a focus on the treatment of athletes.
An extensive search of the literature was completed including search terms of corticosteroid, steroid, athlete, and injection, among others. Additional articles were used after being identified from previously reviewed articles.
Injections of corticosteroids for a variety of painful conditions of the extremities and the axial spine have been described. Numerous minor and major complications have been reported, including those with a high degree of morbidity. There is a dearth of published research on the use of corticosteroid injections in athletes, with most of the research on this topic focused on older, nonathlete populations. Generally, these injections are well tolerated and can provide short-term pain improvement with little or no long-term benefits.
Corticosteroid injections should be used cautiously in athletes and only after a full consideration of the pharmacology, pathogenesis of disease, potential benefits, complications, factors specific to the athlete, and rules of athletic governing bodies. Corticosteroid injections are just one component of a comprehensive rehabilitation plan available to the physician providing care to athletes.