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The incidence and patterns of illness at the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympic Games: a prospective cohort study of 6564 athlete days
  1. W Derman1,2,3,
  2. M P Schwellnus2,3,4,
  3. E Jordaan5,
  4. P Runciman1,
  5. P Van de Vliet6,
  6. C Blauwet7,
  7. N Webborn8,
  8. S Willick9,
  9. J Stomphorst10
  1. 1Institute of Sport and Exercise Medicine, Department of Surgery, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
  2. 2International Olympic Committee (IOC) Research Centre, Cape Town, South Africa
  3. 3Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  4. 4Institute for Sport, Exercise Medicine and Lifestyle Research, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa
  5. 5Biostatistics Unit, Statistics and Population Studies Department, Medical Research Council of South Africa, University of the Western Cape, Parow, South Africa
  6. 6Medical & Scientific Department, International Paralympic Committee, Bonn, Germany
  7. 7Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  8. 8Centre for Sport and Exercise Science and Medicine (SESAME), University of Brighton, Eastbourne, UK
  9. 9Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Utah Orthopaedic Center, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
  10. 10Department of Sport Medicine, Isala Klinieken, Zwolle, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Professor Wayne Derman, Institute of Sport and Exercise Medicine, Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Faculty of Medicine and Health Science, Room 4019, 4th Floor, Clinical Building, Tygerberg Medical Campus, Francie van Zijl Drive, Bellville, Cape Town 7505, South Africa; ewderman{at}


Objective To describe the epidemiology of illness at the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympic Games.

Methods A total of 547 athletes from 45 countries were monitored daily for 12 days over the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympic Games (6564 athlete days). Illness data were obtained daily from teams without their own medical support (13 teams, 37 athletes) and teams with their own medical support (32 teams, 510 athletes) through electronic data capturing systems.

Results The total number of illnesses reported was 123, with an illness incidence rate (IR) of 18.7 per 1000 athlete days (95% CI 15.1% to 23.2%). The highest IR was reported for wheelchair curling (IR of 20.0 (95% CI 10.1% to 39.6%)). Illnesses in the respiratory system (IR of 5.6 (95% CI 3.8% to 8.0%)), eye and adnexa (IR of 2.7 (95% CI 1.7% to 4.4%)) and digestive system (IR of 2.4 (95% CI 1.4% to 4.2%)) were the most common. Older athletes (35–63 years) had a significantly higher IR than younger athletes (14–25 years, p=0.049).

Conclusions The results of this study indicate that Paralympic athletes report higher illness incidence rates compared to Olympic athletes at similar competitions. The highest rates of illness were reported for the respiratory and digestive systems, eye and adnexa, respectively. Thus, the results of this study form a basis for the identification of physiological systems at higher risk of illness, which can in turn inform illness prevention and management programmes with eventual policy change to promote athlete safety in future editions of the Winter Paralympic Games.

  • Athlete
  • Illness
  • Disability

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