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Opportunities and obstacles of translating elite sport research to public health
  1. Gregoire P Millet1,
  2. Stephen Seiler2,
  3. Guillaume Y Millet3
  1. 1 University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  2. 2 Institute of Public Health, Sport, and Nutrition, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway
  3. 3 Inter-University Laboratory of Human Movement Biology, Jean Monnet University, Saint-Etienne, France
  1. Correspondence to Professor Gregoire P Millet, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland; gregoire.millet{at}

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In a recent editorial, Thornton et al 1 argued that ‘Like folklore hero Robin Hood, we - sport and exercise medicine (SEM) scientists and practitioners - can draw on the opportunity and expertise gained by working with the elite few and apply it for the benefit of many. We applaud this positive point of view. It was, however, supported by only one example—the successful ‘11 for health’ programme. That sport science-driven knowledge and innovation developed from elite sport translates or ‘scales down’ (ie, ‘Formula-1 circus to my garage’ paradigm) remains debatable. The goals may be similar for elite athletes and general or clinical populations, that is, optimising training impact and minimising negative effects (injuries, chronic fatigue/overtraining) but we argue that knowledge developed by sport scientists and practitioners working with elite athletes cannot be directly translated to population health without careful analysis and adaptation. Athletes are not immune from diseases or co-morbidities,2 so ‘elite athlete’ and ‘non-healthy population’ categories overlap. Moreover, treatment may be more challenging in elite athletes due to added stress from exercise or antidoping regulations.3

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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it published Online First. The third author's name has been updated.

  • Contributors GPM, SS and GM wrote this editorial together.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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