A 17-year-old track star's death was caused by the use of too much anti-inflammatory muscle cream, the kind used to soothe aching legs after exercise.
Arielle Newman, a cross-country runner at Notre Dame Academy on New York's Staten Island, died after her body absorbed high levels of methyl salicylate, an anti-inflammatory found in sports creams such as Bengay and Icy Hot, the New York City medical examiner said Friday.
The medical examiner's spokeswoman, Ellen Borakove, said the teen used "topical medication to excess." She said it was the first time that her office had reported a death from using a sports cream.
In addition to spreading the muscle cream on her legs between track meets, Newman was using adhesive pads containing the anti-inflammatory, plus an unspecified third product containing the chemical, Borakove said. The products were used and the chemical absorbed over time, rather than from a single instance of overuse, she said.
Newman, who garnered numerous track awards, died April 3. She had gone to a party the night before, then returned home and spent hours talking with her mother.
Methyl salicylate poisoning is unusual, and deaths from high levels of the chemical are rare.
"Chronic use is more dangerous than one-time use," Edward Arsura, chairman of medicine at Richmond University Medical Center, told the Staten Island Advance on Friday. "Exercise and heat can accentuate absorption."
Dr. Ronald Grelsamer, of Mount Sinai Medical Center, said Newman had a very abnormal amount of methyl salicylate in her body.
"She either lathered herself with it, or used way too much, or she used a normal amount and an abnormal percentage was absorbed into her body," he said.
Her mother, Alice Newman, said she still could not believe her daughter's death was caused by a sports cream.
"I am scrupulous about my children's health," she told the Advance newspaper. "I did not think an over-the-counter product could be unsafe."