Background Elite athletes are exposed to high physiological training and competition loads and associated increased injury risk. While there is a wealth of evidence reporting the prevalence of injuries seasonally and during major games events, there are few studies examining injury risk across an elite athlete’s entire sporting-career.
Objective Recruit a representative sample of Olympians who have retired from elite competition, and general population controls, in order to examine Olympic-career injury patterns and risk, and their association with current health status.
Design Cross-sectional survey of sporting and injury history, and general health.
Setting Olympians and the general population, from 209 countries worldwide.
Patients (or Participants) Athletes who had competed at a Summer and/or Winter Olympic Games and considered themselves retired from Olympic level training and competition; members of the general population who had not competed at an Olympic Games.
Interventions (or Assessment of Risk Factors) Recruitment of participants took place over a 14-month period (Apr 2018-May 2019), during which an electronic survey was distributed, in eight languages, by email and social media through World Olympians Association and International Olympic Committee channels. Platforms included Olympians.org, National Olympians Associations, National Olympic Committees, International Federations, Athlete 365 and Olympic Studies Centre. Control recruitment also involved Olympian ‘buddies’, and regional leisure, medical and community centres.
Main Outcome Measurements Number and distribution of Olympian and control participants.
Results There were 4,745 Olympian and 2,462 control online survey entries. Data cleaning removed 1,388 Olympian and 727 control ineligible entries (e.g. blank, duplicate, incomplete, under-16 yrs) leaving 3,357 Olympian (age 16–97) and 1,735 control (age 16–88) completed questionnaires, from 131 and 73 Countries (respectively) eligible for data analysis.
Conclusions The distribution of Olympians and controls recruited to the study, and recording of lifetime injury history, sport and exercise exposure and general health measures, will allow analyses of risk factors associated with Olympic-career injury and current health status.
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