Olympic Games: Special Considerations—Medical Care for Olympians

  • David J. Pohl
  • Garrett Schwartzman
  • Mark R. HutchinsonEmail author
  • William Moreau
  • Roald Bahr
  • Robert McCormack
  • Juan-Manuel Alonzo
  • Andre Pedrenelli
  • Roberto Nahon


The purpose of this chapter is to present and review the unique challenges that the sports medicine clinician may face regarding the Olympic Games and Olympic-level athletes. Specific anatomic injuries as well as sports-specific injuries have been covered elsewhere in the text. Several factors make the Olympic Games a unique event regarding sports medicine care. It is not only one of the largest mass sporting events in the world; it often represents the penultimate competition of an athlete’s career. Unique challenges include acclimatization to a new country, travel, geography, foods, and language. The athlete not only has pressure from their coach and the fans of that particular sport but also a global audience and the pressures coming from stress related to representing their country. From the medical planning and organization perspective, the Olympic Games is a multisport, international, and mass sporting event. For the host country, the organization must provide optimal communication, transportation, and facilities to care for thousands of elite-level athletes. For national organizations, preparations can begin years in advance of the games and include planning how dependent they wish to be on the host country’s medical plan; which facilities may be used in case of emergencies; what equipment, staff, and medications will be necessary to retain independent care of their own athletes; and arranging local licensure, contacts, and training facilities for its athletes throughout the course of competition.


  1. 1.
    International Olympic Committee. Athens—1896. 2017. Accessed 7 Mar 2018.
  2. 2.
    International Olympic Committee. Rio 2016. 2018. Accessed 7 Mar 2018.
  3. 3.
    International Olympic Committee. Chamonix—1924. 2017. Accessed 7 Mar 2018.
  4. 4.
    International Olympic Committee. PyeongChang—2018. 2018. Accessed 7 Mar 2018.
  5. 5.
    International Olympic Committee. The IOC—What We Do. 2018. Accessed 7 Mar 2018.
  6. 6.
    International Olympic Committee. Medical and Scientific Commission. 2018. Accessed 7 Mar 2018.
  7. 7.
    Budgett R. On call for Olympic athletes: MRIs, ultrasounds and digital X-rays. 2016. Accessed 7 Mar 2018.
  8. 8.
    Soligard T, Steffen K, Palmer-Green D, et al. Sports injury and illness incidence in the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Summer Games: a prospective study of 11 274 athletes from 207 countries. Br J Sports Med. 2017;51(17):1265–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Junge A, Engebretsen L, Alonso JM, et al. Injury surveillance in multi-sport events: the International Olympic Committee approach. Br J Sports Med. 2008;42(6):413–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Engebretsen L, Steffen K, Alonso JM, et al. Sports injuries and illnesses during the Winter Olympic Games 2010. Br J Sports Med. 2010;44(11):772–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Engebretsen L, Soligard T, Steffen K, et al. Sports injuries and illnesses during the London Summer Olympic Games 2012. Br J Sports Med. 2013;47(7):407–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Soligard T, Steffen K, Palmer-Green D, et al. Sports injuries and illnesses in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Br J Sports Med. 2015;49(7):441–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Reeser JC, Willick SE, Elstad MR. Medical services provided at the Olympic Village polyclinic during the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. WMJ. 2003;102(4):20.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Guermazi A, Hayashi D, Jarraya M, et al. Sports injuries at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Summer Olympics: use of diagnostic imaging services. Radiology. 2018;287(3):922–32. Scholar
  15. 15.
    GE Healthcare. How a healthcare olympic record was broken in Rio. 2018. Accessed 7 Mar 2018.
  16. 16.
  17. 17.
    Kononovas K, Black G, Taylor J, Raine R. Improving Olympic Health Services: what are the common health care planning issues? Prehosp Disaster Med. 2014;29(6):623.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Wolff AD. When the terror began. 2002.,8599,2051168,00.html. Accessed 26 Mar 2018.
  19. 19.
    Boyle P, Haggert KD. Planning for the worst: risk, uncertainty and the Olympic Games. Br J Sociol. 2012;63(2):241–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Enock K, Jacobs J. The Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012: literature review of the logistical planning and operational challenges for public health. Public Health. 2008;122(11):1229–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Streets DG, Fu JS, Jang C, et al. Air quality during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Atmos Environ. 2007;41(3):480–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Black G, Kononovas K, Taylor J, Raine R. Healthcare planning for the Olympics in London: a qualitative evaluation. PLoS One. 2014;9(3):e92338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Greenhalgh T. The Olympics are over. What have we learned about organizing and delivering healthcare? J Roy Soc Med. 2012;105(19):373–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Wang W, Primbs T, Tao S, Massey Simonich SL. Atmospheric particulate matter pollution during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Environ Sci Technol. 2009;43(14):5314–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Jamieson A. Beijing Olympics were the most polluted games ever, researchers say. The Telegraph. 2009.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Fitch K. Air pollution, athletic health and performance at the Olympic Games. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2016;56:922–32.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Gao J, Xu X, Ying Z, et al. Post-effect of air quality improvement on biomarkers for systemic inflammation and microparticles in asthma patients after the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games: a pilot study. Inflammation. 2017;40(4):1214–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Diseases TLI. Concerns raised over water quality at the Rio Olympics. Lancet Infect Dis. 2015;15(9):987.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Barchfield J. Rio 2016: swimmers need to ingest only three teaspoons of water to be almost certain of contracting a virus. Independent. Aug 2016;1:2016.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Warnke K, Paul J. Zika virus-impact on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Sportverletz Sportschaden. 2016;30(3):154–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Grills A. Projected Zika virus importation and subsequent ongoing transmission after travel to the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games—country-specific assessment, July 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65(28):711–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Shadgan B, Pakravan A, Zaeimkohan H, et al. Zika and Rio Olympic Games. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2016;15(4):298–300.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Burattini MN, Coutinho FAB, Lopez LF, et al. Potential exposure to Zika virus for foreign tourists during the 2016 Carnival and Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Epidemiol Infect. 2016;144(9):1904–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Fraser AD. Doping control from a global and national perspective. Ther Drug Monitor. 2004;26(2):171–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Mountjoy M, Akef N, Budgett R, et al. A novel antidoping and medical care delivery model at the 2nd Summer Youth Olympic Games (2014), Nanjing China. Br J Sports Med. 2015;49(13):887–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    LaBotz M, Griesemer BA. Use of performance enhancing substances. Pediatrics. 2009;138(1) Scholar
  37. 37.
    Barroso O, Schamasch P, Rabin O. Detection of GH abuse in sport: past, present and future. Growth Horm IGF Res. 2009;19(4):369–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Catlin DH, Fitch KD, Ljungqvist A. Medicine and science in the fight against doping in sport. J Intern Med. 2008;264(2):99–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Ljungqvist A, Jenoure P, Engebretsen L, et al. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Consensus Statement on periodic health evaluation of elite athletes March 2009. Br J Sports Med. 2009;43(9):631–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
  41. 41.
    Internation Olympic Committee. Olympic charter in force as from 2 August 2015. 2015. Accessed 10 Mar 2018.
  42. 42.
    Internation Olympic Committee. Rio 2016 looking for 8000 volunteers with language skills to be voice of the games. 2014. Accessed 10 Mar 2018.
  43. 43.
    Budgett R. Healthcare challenges at an Olympic Games. Br J Sports Med. 2013;47:401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© ISAKOS 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • David J. Pohl
    • 1
  • Garrett Schwartzman
    • 1
  • Mark R. Hutchinson
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • William Moreau
    • 2
  • Roald Bahr
    • 3
  • Robert McCormack
    • 4
  • Juan-Manuel Alonzo
    • 5
    • 6
  • Andre Pedrenelli
    • 7
  • Roberto Nahon
    • 8
  1. 1.University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.United States Olympic CommitteeColorado SpringsUSA
  3. 3.Department of Sports MedicineOlympiatoppen, Norwegian Olympic Training CenterOsloNorway
  4. 4.Canadian Olympic TeamTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Qatar Olympic TeamDohaQatar
  6. 6.Past Medical Team for Spanish Olympic and Track and Field TeamsBarcelonaSpain
  7. 7.Team Physician Brazilian Olympic Team and National Men’s Soccer TeamRio de JaneiroBrazil
  8. 8.Brazilian Olympic Medical ServicesRio de JaneiroBrazil

Personalised recommendations