Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Factors associated with illness in athletes participating in the London 2012 Paralympic Games: a prospective cohort study involving 49 910 athlete-days
  1. Martin Schwellnus1,2,
  2. Wayne Derman1,2,
  3. Esme Jordaan3,
  4. Cheri A Blauwet4,5,
  5. Carolyn Emery6,7,
  6. Pia Pit-Grosheide5,
  7. Norma-Angelica Patino Marques8,5,
  8. Oriol Martinez-Ferrer5,9,
  9. Jaap Stomphorst10,5,
  10. Peter Van de Vliet5,11,
  11. Nick Webborn12,
  12. Stuart E Willick
  1. 1UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  2. 2International Olympic Committee (IOC) Research Centre, Cape Town, South Africa
  3. 3Biostatistics Unit, Medical Research Council, Parow, South Africa
  4. 4Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  5. 5International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Medical Committee, Bonn, Germany
  6. 6Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, University of Calgary, Edmonton, Canada
  7. 7International Olympic Committee (IOC) Research Centre, Calgary, Canada
  8. 8National Commission of Physical Culture and Sport in the Mexican Paralympic Centre, National Center of Medicine and Sports Sciences, Mexico City, Mexico
  9. 9Ramon Llull University, Barcelona, Spain
  10. 10Sports Medicine Department, Isala Klinieken, Zwolle, The Netherlands
  11. 11Health Leisure and Human Performance Research Institute, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
  12. 12The Sussex Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, University of Brighton, Eastbourne, UK
  13. 13Orthopaedic Center, University of Utah, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Martin Schwellnus, UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, 3rd Floor Sports Science Institute of South Africa, Boundary Road, Newlands, Cape Town, 7700, South Africa; mschwell{at}


Background The incidence and factors associated with illness in Paralympic athletes have not been documented.

Aim To determine the factors associated with illness in athletes participating in the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Methods A cohort of 3565 athletes from 160 of the 164 participating countries in the London 2012 Paralympic Games were followed over a 14-day period (precompetition period=3 days, competition period=11 days; 49 910 athlete-days). Daily illness data were obtained from (1) teams with their own medical support who completed a daily illness log (78 teams, 3329 athletes) on a novel web-based system and (2) teams without their own medical support through the local organising committee database (82 teams, 236 athletes). Illness information from all athletes included age, gender, type of sport and the main system affected.

Main outcome measurement Incidence rate (IR) of illness (illness per 1000 athlete-days) and factors associated with IR (time period, gender, age and sport).

Results The IR of illness was 13.2 (95% CI 12.2 to 14.2). The highest IR of illness was in the respiratory system, followed by the skin, digestive, nervous and genitourinary systems. The IR in the precompetition period was similar to that in the competition period, but the IR was significantly higher in athletics compared with other sports. Age and gender were not independent predictors of illness.

Conclusions Illness is common in Paralympic athletes and the main factor associated with higher IR of illness was the type of sport (athletics).

  • Disabled
  • Olympics

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.