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Self-reported sports injuries and later-life health status in 3,357 retired Olympians from 131 countries: a cross-sectional survey among those competing in the Games between London 1948 and PyeongChang 2018

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posted on 2020-11-06, 13:56 authored by Debbie Palmer, Dale Cooper, Carolyn Emery, Mark Batt, Lars Engebretsen, Brigitte Scammell, Torbjorn Soligard, Kathrin Steffen, Jackie Whittaker, Richard Budgett
Objective Describe the self- reported prevalence and nature of Olympic- career injury and general health and current residual symptoms in a self- selected sample of retired Olympians.Methods 3357 retired Olympians from 131 countries completed a cross- sectional online survey, distributed by direct email through World Olympians Association and National Olympian Associations databases. The survey captured Olympic sport exposure, significant training and competition injury history (lasting >1 month), general health (eg, depression) during the athlete’s career, and current musculoskeletal pain and functional limitations.Results 55% were men (44% women, 1% unknown), representing 57 sports (42 Summer, 15 Winter), aged 44.7 years (range 16–97). A total of 3746 injuries were self- reported by 2116 Olympians. In this study population, 63.0% (women 68.1%, men 59.2%) reported at least one significant injury during their Olympic career. Injury prevalence was highest in handball (82.2%) and lowest in shooting (40.0%) for Summer Olympians; and highest in alpine skiing (82.4%) and lowest in biathlon (40.0%) for Winter Olympians. The knee was the most frequently injured anatomical region (20.6%, 120 median days severity), followed by the lumbar spine (13.1%, 100 days) and shoulder/clavicle (12.9%, 92 days). 6.6% of Olympians said they had experienced depression during their career. One- third of retired Olympians reported current pain (32.4%) and functional limitations (35.9%).Conclusions Almost two- thirds of Olympians who completed the survey reported at least one Olympic- career significant injury. The knee, lumbar spine and shoulder/clavicle were the most commonly injured anatomical locations. One- third of this sample of Olympians attributed current pain and functional limitations to Olympic- career injury.


The World Olympians Association funded the Retired Olympian Musculoskeletal Health Study (ROMHS) with a research grant from the IOC



British Journal of Sports Medicine 2021;55:46-53.

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School of Allied Health Professions


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British Journal of Sports Medicine






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