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Sports injury and illness incidence in the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Summer Games: A prospective study of 11274 athletes from 207 countries
  1. Torbjørn Soligard1,2,
  2. Kathrin Steffen3,
  3. Debbie Palmer4,5,
  4. Juan Manuel Alonso6,
  5. Roald Bahr3,
  6. Alexandre Dias Lopes7,
  7. Jiri Dvorak8,
  8. Marie-Elaine Grant9,
  9. Willem Meeuwisse2,
  10. Margo Mountjoy10,
  11. Leonardo Oliveira Pena Costa11,
  12. Natalia Salmina12,
  13. Richard Budgett1,
  14. Lars Engebretsen1,3,13
  1. 1 Medical and Scientific Department, International Olympic Committee, Lausanne, Switzerland
  2. 2 Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  3. 3 Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Department of Sports Medicine, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway
  4. 4 School of Applied Sciences, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK
  5. 5 Division of Rheumatology, Orthopaedics and Dermatology, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  6. 6 Department of Sports Medicine, Aspetar Qatar Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar
  7. 7 Department of Physical Therapy, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts, USA
  8. 8 Department of Neurology, Spine Unit, Schulthess Clinic, Zurich, Switzerland
  9. 9 Institute of Sport and Health, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  10. 10 Fédération International de Natation (FINA), Lausanne, Switzerland
  11. 11 Masters and Doctoral Programs in Physical Therapy, Universidade Cidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
  12. 12 GE Healthcare, Moscow, Russia
  13. 13 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  1. Correspondence to Torbjørn Soligard, Medical & Scientific Department, International Olympic Committee, Château de Vidy, 1007 Lausanne, Switzerland; torbjorn.soligard{at}


Objective To describe the pattern of injuries and illnesses sustained during the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, hosted by Rio de Janeiro from 5 to 21 August 2016.

Methods We recorded the daily incidence of athlete injuries and illnesses (1) through the reporting of all National Olympic Committee (NOC) medical teams and (2) in the polyclinic and medical venues by the Rio 2016 medical staff.

Results In total, 11 274 athletes (5089 women, 45%; 6185 men, 55%) from 207 NOCs participated in the study. NOC and Rio 2016 medical staff reported 1101 injuries and 651 illnesses, equalling 9.8 injuries and 5.4 illnesses per 100 athletes over the 17-day period. Altogether, 8% of the athletes incurred at least one injury and 5% at least one illness. The injury incidence was highest in BMX cycling (38% of the athletes injured), boxing (30%), mountain bike cycling (24%), taekwondo (24%), water polo (19%) and rugby (19%), and lowest in canoe slalom, rowing, shooting, archery, swimming, golf and table tennis (0%–3%). Of the 1101 injuries recorded, 40% and 20% were estimated to lead to ≥1 and >7 days of absence from sport, respectively. Women suffered 40% more illnesses than men. Illness was generally less common than injury, with the highest incidence recorded in diving (12%), open-water marathon (12%), sailing (12%), canoe slalom (11%), equestrian (11%) and synchronised swimming (10%). Illnesses were also less severe; 18% were expected to result in time loss. Of the illnesses, 47% affected the respiratory system and 21% the gastrointestinal system. The anticipated problem of infections in the Rio Olympic Games did not materialise, as the proportion of athletes with infectious diseases mirrored that of recent Olympic Games (3%).

Conclusion Overall, 8% of the athletes incurred at least one injury during the Olympic Games, and 5% an illness, which is slightly lower than in the Olympic Summer Games of 2008 and 2012.

  • surveillance
  • injury
  • illness
  • summer sports
  • elite athletes
  • prevention

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to the study conception and design, data collection and interpretation. TS analysed the data and drafted the paper. All authors provided revisions and contributed to the final manuscript. TS is the guarantor.

  • Funding The study was funded by the International Olympic Committee.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The study was reviewed by the Medical Research Ethics Committee of the South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority (2011/388).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.