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Development of sports medicine in the International Olympic Committee
  1. Torbjørn Soligard1,
  2. Kathrin Steffen2,
  3. Richard Budgett1,
  4. Lars Engebretsen1,2
  1. 1 Medical and Scientific Department, International Olympic Committee, Lausanne, Switzerland
  2. 2 Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Department of Sports Medicine, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway
  1. Correspondence to Dr Torbjørn Soligard, Medical and Scientific Department, International Olympic Committee, Lausanne, Switzerland; torbjorn.soligard{at}

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When the senior author (LE) started as Head of Scientific Activities of the Medical and Scientific Department in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in October 2007, the Mission statement of this new IOC development was to:

  • Develop the IOC’s medical and scientific activities to position the IOC as the primary reference in sports medicine and sports science.

  • Increase the positioning of the IOC on the protection of athletes’ health by developing research and education in sports medicine.

  • Act as the interface between the scientific community on the one hand (universities, research institutes, scientific societies) and the sporting community on the other hand (National Olympic Committees (NOCs), International Federations (IFs)).

17 years later, many projects have been accomplished as part of this mission. This commentary summarises the various programmes and initiatives implemented by the IOC Medical and Scientific Department over nearly two decades.

Research: the main source of knowledge


Understanding injury epidemiology is a prerequisite and the basis for injury prevention.1 Thus, we introduced the first full-fledged injury surveillance in the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics.2 This study was the first to collect all athlete injury data, not only from the Organising Committee’s polyclinic and medical stations but also directly from the NOCs’ medical staff, to present a complete picture of the epidemiology of injuries occurring at the Olympics. Two years later, in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, we broadened its scope to also include all athlete illnesses3 and since then the surveillance studies have been an inherent part of both the Olympic Games4–9 and the Youth Olympic Games.10–13 The two latest papers from Tokyo 20208 and Beijing 20229 shed light on how COVID-19 and accompanying countermeasures impacted the athletes’ injuries and illnesses. Fundamentally, we consider this research to be the underpinning of much of our work and expect it to …

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  • X @TSoligard, @larsengebretsen

  • 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.