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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Consensus Statement on periodic health evaluation of elite athletes March 2009
  1. Arne Ljungqvist1,
  2. Peter Jenoure2,
  3. Lars Engebretsen3,4,
  4. Juan Manuel Alonso5,
  5. Roald Bahr4,
  6. Anthony Clough6,7,
  7. Guido De Bondt8,
  8. Jiri Dvorak9,
  9. Robert Maloley10,
  10. Gordon Matheson11,
  11. Willem Meeuwisse12,13,
  12. Erik Meijboom14,
  13. Margo Mountjoy15,
  14. Antonio Pelliccia16,
  15. Martin Schwellnus17,
  16. Dominique Sprumont18,
  17. Patrick Schamasch19,
  18. Jean-Benoìt Gauthier19,
  19. Christophe Dubi19,
  20. Howard Stupp19,
  21. Christian Thill19
  1. 1
    Chairman, IOC Medical Commission, Lausanne, Switzerland
  2. 2
    Associate Professor of Sports Medicine, Basel and Neuchâtel, Switzerland
  3. 3
    Orthopaedic Centre, Ullevaal University Hospital and Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  4. 4
    Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway
  5. 5
    Medical Department of Royal Spanish Athletic Federation, Madrid, Spain
  6. 6
    Sports Dentistry, University College London, London, UK
  7. 7
    Oral Health, University of Essex, UK
  8. 8
    Belgian Olympic and Interfederal Committee (BOIC), Brussels, Belgium
  9. 9
    Department of Neurology, Spine Unit Schulthess Clinic, Zurich, Switzerland
  10. 10
    CEO PrivIT Inc. & PrivIT Healthcare Inc., London, Ontario, Canada
  11. 11
    Stanford University Department of Athletics, Palo Alto, California, USA
  12. 12
    Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada
  13. 13
    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, Calgary, Canada
  14. 14
    University Hospital Center of Vaud, Lausanne, Switzerland
  15. 15
    Health & Performance Centre, University of Guelph, McMaster University Medical School, Canada
  16. 16
    The Institute of Sports Medicine and Science of the Italian National Olympic Committee, Rome, Italy
  17. 17
    Department of Sports Science and Exercise Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  18. 18
    Faculty of Law, University of Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Switzerland
  19. 19
    IOC, Lausanne, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Professor Lars Engebretsen, Ortopedisk avdeling Ulleval sykehus, Ullevaal University Hospital, Oslo 0407, Norway; lars.engebretsen{at}medisin.uio.no

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The Olympic Games is the largest sport event in the world. In Beijing, 10 500 athletes competed, selected from a large group of elite athletes in 204 countries. Sports participation on the elite level, aside from winning medals, fame and other rewards, is also important from a health perspective. There is no longer any doubt that regular physical activity reduces the risk of premature mortality in general, and of coronary heart disease, hypertension, colon cancer, obesity and diabetes mellitus in particular. The question is whether the health benefits of sports participation outweigh the risk of injury and long-term disability, especially in high-level athletes. Sarna et al1 have studied the incidence of chronic disease and life expectancy of former male world-class athletes from Finland in endurance sports, power sports and team sports. The overall life expectancy was longer in the high-level athlete compared with a reference group (75.6 vs 69.9 years). The same group also showed that the rate of hospitalisation later in life was lower for endurance sports and power sports compared with the reference group.2 This resulted from a lower rate of hospital care for heart disease, respiratory disease and cancer. However, the athletes were more likely to have been hospitalised for musculoskeletal disorders. Thus, the evidence suggests that although there is a general health benefit from sports participation, injuries represent a significant side effect.

One priority of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is to protect the health of the athlete. During recent years, prevention of injuries and illnesses has been high on the IOC agenda. During the Athens Games, an injury surveillance system was applied for all team sports.3 During the Beijing Games, the IOC ran, for the first time, an injury surveillance system covering all the athletes, showing a 10% incidence of injuries.4 In …

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