Lya Wodraska wins the April DFMie for the Colorado/Utah cluster for her story on the dangers of gymnasts’ heavy use of pain-killers.
Editor Nancy Conway explained in her nomination:
The stories of injured athletes falling victim to powerful, addictive painkillers are well documented. But much less is known about those athletes who take large amounts of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pills — mainly ibuprofen.
Tribune sports reporter Lya Wodraska used the example of the University of Utah’s highly successful women’s gymnastics team to illustrate how some athletes are taking ibuprofen every day, including some who don’t have pain but take it as a preventive measure before competitions. Such uses can lead to kidney failure and other serious complications.
The piece provided a lot of helpful information, and certainly much to think about, for sports professionals and weekend warriors who might never have thought about the ramifications of over-using anti-inflammatory pills like ibuprofen. The article’s use of athletes and doctors to tell the story drew me in. It was great that the gymnast went on the record and Wodraska didn’t have to use an anonymous source. I liked putting a face to the quotes. I thought it was outstanding storytelling and informative.
I think the piece acted as a community service in the respect that I am sure it gave parents something to weigh as the athletes in their families train. Perhaps parents are now thinking more about monitoring the anti-inflammatory pill use of the high school or college athletes in their families. Sets the stage for a discussion among parents and children. Great subject.
Lya Wodraska’s “Popping Pills” is particularly engaging because it takes a familiar issue — medications used, and abused, by athletes to deal with pain and injury — and presents an angle most readers might not have considered, namely the consequences of excessive use of legal, over-the-counter meds. The implications for general readers, not just athletes, is clear.