Background: Standardized assessment of sports injuries provides important epidemiological information and also directions for injury prevention.
Purpose: To analyze the frequency, characteristics, and causes of injuries incurred during the Summer Olympic Games 2008.
Study design: Descriptive epidemiology study.
Methods: The chief physicians and/or chief medical officers of the national teams were asked to report daily all injuries newly incurred during the Olympic Games on a standardized injury report form. In addition, injuries were reported daily by the physicians at the medical stations at the different Olympic venues and at the polyclinic in the Olympic Village.
Results: Physicians and/or therapists of 92 national teams covering 88% of the 10,977 registered athletes took part in the study. In total, 1055 injuries were reported, resulting in an incidence of 96.1 injuries per 1000 registered athletes. Half of the injuries (49.6%) were expected to prevent the athlete from participating in competition or training. The most prevalent diagnoses were ankle sprains and thigh strains. The majority (72.5%) of injuries were incurred in competition. One third of the injuries were caused by contact with another athlete, followed by overuse (22%) and noncontact incidences (20%). Injuries were reported from all sports, but their incidence and characteristics varied substantially. In relation to the number of registered athletes, the risk of incurring an injury was highest in soccer, taekwondo, hockey, handball, weightlifting, and boxing (all >or=15% of the athletes) and lowest for sailing, canoeing/kayaking, rowing, synchronized swimming, diving, fencing, and swimming.
Conclusion: The data indicate that the injury surveillance system covered almost all of the participating athletes, and the results highlight areas of high risk for sport injury such as the in-competition period, the ankle and thigh, and specific sports. The identification of these factors should stimulate future research and subsequent policy change to prevent injury in elite athletes.