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It is time to walk the talk on athlete health and safety: a call for establishing health and safety as the foundation for all sports-related decisions
  1. William M Adams1,2,3,4
  1. 1 Department of Sports Medicine, United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
  2. 2 US Coalition for the Prevention of Illness and Injury in Sport, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
  3. 3 Department of Kinesiology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC, USA
  4. 4 School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Leicestershire, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr William M Adams, Department of Sports Medicine, United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, Colorado Springs, CO 80909, USA; william.adams{at}

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Despite the established health benefits of sport participation, the associated injury risk to athletes participating in sport must also be considered. When a catastrophic injury occurs, such as the January 2023 collapse and on-field cardiac arrest of National Football League athlete Damar Hamlin, a heightened sense of awareness surrounding athlete health and safety is reinjected into discussions on the topic of what is an ‘acceptable level of risk’ in sport. Fortunately, millions of viewers watching this sporting event observed the effectiveness of the expeditious care provided by the well-trained and well-prepared medical team; the immediate recognition and on-site care provided undoubtedly saved the athlete’s life.

While this case highlights the importance of having appropriate, on-site medical care present during sport participation, examples of young and seemingly healthy athletes who suffer a catastrophic injury while participating in sport remain in the news headlines. These repeated occurrences, speculated to be underestimated due to the lack of attention in low-income settings or sports that may not be well resourced (eg, ‘small’ sports or para sports), highlight the mismatch between the continued advancement of medicine and the optimisation of patient outcomes. If we, as a society, want to better serve our athletes and patients, it is time that we ‘walk the talk’ and better prioritise their health, wellness and safety. This editorial serves as a call to …

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  • Contributors WMA conceptualised, drafted and approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • 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.

  • Disclaimer The views expressed in this editorial are those of the author and do not reflect the views or opinions of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, or any of its members or affiliates.

  • Competing interests WMA has received monies from the following entities that may be, in part, relevant to this work: Springer Nature (Royalties) and Korey Stringer Institute (Consulting). WMA is also the owner of Adams Sports Medicine Consulting.

  • Patient and public involvement statement Not applicable

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