Leading up to the 2018 Olympics How often athletes sustain injuries before or during competition?

In 2014, there were 391 injuries among the 2,780 athletes at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, 35% of those injuries were sustained in competition. “The overall rate of injury in the Sochi Games was similar to those in Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010 and in London 2012 (12% of all athletes injured in Sochi versus 11% in Vancouver and London, and 10% in Beijing).”

“There were more than 11,000 athletes in Rio. Therefore, one would expect injuries. The serious injuries we have seen so far are also seen in the same sports in World Cups and other major events,” Engebretsen said. However, these more severe injuries are rare, said Dr. Andrew Cosgarea, head team physician for the Johns Hopkins University Department of Athletics and chief of the Division of Sports Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

“The most common injuries are overuse injuries,” Cosgarea said.

Injuries and overuse injuries range from tendinitis to shin splints, including swelling, soreness and pain.

Cupping, dry needling, scraping, massage, compression and ice baths, are all attempts to try to improve healing. An overuse implies that the amount of stress that the body is incurring is more than the body is capable of accepting or tolerating, without having a negative effect on that tissue.”

When a more severe injury occurs, it could be the result of a predisposing factor — such as a stress fracture that occurred during training — not healing completely or properly.

Every athlete has had some sort of injury or knows someone who has been injured before.”

In 2014, the International Olympic Committee collaborated with nine research centers worldwide and asked them to study, develop and implement effective preventive and treatment measures for injuries. Engebretsen and his colleagues also plan to continue to track and study the injuries that occur during Olympic Games in an effort to better innovate ways to prevent injuries.

We do this to understand the risks to the athletes based, in part on the patterns and mechanisms of injury,” Engebretsen said. “When we understand these patterns, how injuries happen, we can suggest and test ways to mitigate the risks.”

For the athletes themselves, Cosgarea said, the injuries can be simply the cost of striving for greatness: “They’re taking the risk that allows them to give it their best shot and perhaps win that medal and be an Olympic hero.”

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