With the end of this amazing summer Olympics, the examination of the incidence of injury for Olympic athletes can assist us in the understanding of what can be done to prevent it at future games.
A leading international study using data from the Beijing Olympics highlighted that the highest risk for sport injury was during competition and that injuries were more likely to occur in some sports more than others.
How common are injuries at the Olympics?
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, just under 10% of athletes sustained an injury. While the most common injuries occurred were ankle sprains and hamstring strains, about half of the injured athletes were unable to participate in competition.
What puts athletes at risk of injury?
There are many factors that will put an athlete at risk of injury, including: fatigue, repetitive patterns (both physical stress and performance related), change of environment, time zone and diet. Many participants are nursing pre-existing injuries; particularly for hamstring strains, if someone has sustained a previous hamstring strain they are predisposed to another injury. Previously injured players are more than twice as likely to sustain a new hamstring injury.
Are certain sports more injury prone than others?
Contact sports comprise 33% of injuries according to the IOC study, with soccer incurring the greatest amount of injuries. This may be attributed to the fact that many players are coming to the Olympics off the end of their seasons when their bodies are already fatigued, combined with the length of time of a soccer match. Other injury-prone sports include weight lifting, hockey, boxing and tae kwon do.
What can players do to reduce the risk of injury?
Active warm ups are vital when preparing to compete. The hard work is done and athletes must be mindful to not over-train prior to competing. They should allow appropriate time to acclimate to the environmental conditions and a new time zone.
Great attention needs to be paid to post-injury rehabilitation in order to promote maximal recovery by addressing issues including overcoming muscle inhibition. When athletes have a pre-existing injury, it is important that they reactivate the injured muscles appropriately since the usual stabilizing patterns are sometimes disrupted when an injury has occurred. Other important strategies for preventing injury include rest.
In closing, the best way to prevent injury at major sporting meets such as the Olympics is for athletes not only to fully recover after a previous injury, but also to incorporate core training into their routines, to keep their bodies working efficiently. It is also of great benefit for athletes themselves to learn about anatomy and biomechanics to gain a greater understanding of their bodies, and reduce fear associated with the unknown.