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Methods, challenges and benefits of a health monitoring programme for Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic athletes: the road from London 2012 to Tokyo 2020

Abstract

Objective To describe the implementation of a health monitoring programme for Norwegian Paralympic and Olympic candidates over five consecutive Olympic and Paralympic Games cycles (London 2012, Sochi 2014, Rio de Janeiro 2016, PyeongChang 2018 and Tokyo 2020).

Methods Athletes were monitored for 12–18 months preparing for the games using a weekly online questionnaire (OSTRC-H2) with follow-up by physicians and physiotherapists, who provided clinical care and classified reported problems.

Results Between 2011 and 2020, 533 Olympic and 95 Paralympic athletes were included in the monitoring programme, with an overall response of 79% to the weekly questionnaire and a total observation period of 30 826 athlete weeks. During this time, 3770 health problems were reported, with a diagnosis rate of 97%. The average prevalence of health problems at any given time was 32% among Olympic athletes and 37% among Paralympic athletes. Acute traumatic injuries represented the greatest burden for Olympic team sport athletes, and illnesses represented the greatest burden for Olympic endurance and Paralympic athletes. On average, Olympic athletes lost 27 days and Paralympic athletes lost 33 days of training per year due to health problems.

Conclusion Conducting long-term health monitoring of Olympic and Paralympic athletes is challenging, particularly because athletes travel frequently and often relate to many medical providers. This programme has been implemented and improved within Team Norway for five Olympic and Paralympic cycles and during this time we believe it has helped protect our athletes’ health.

  • olympics
  • surveillance

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Requests to access the data will be considered by the authors, within the constraints of privacy and consent.

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