Pre-participation health evaluation in adolescent athletes competing at Youth Olympic Games: proposal for a tailored protocol

Br J Sports Med. 2019 Sep;53(17):1111-1116. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-099651. Epub 2018 Nov 17.


Objective: To promote sports participation in young people, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) introduced the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in 2007. In 2009, the IOC Consensus Statement was published, which highlighted the value of periodic health evaluation in elite athletes. The objective of this study was to assess the efficacy of a comprehensive protocol for illness and injury detection, tailored for adolescent athletes participating in Summer or Winter YOG.

Methods: Between 2010 and 2014, a total of 247 unique adolescent elite Italian athletes (53% females), mean age 16±1,0 years, competing in 22 summer or 15 winter sport disciplines, were evaluated through a tailored pre-participation health evaluation protocol, at the Sports Medicine and Science Institute of the Italian Olympic Committee.

Results: In 30 of the 247 athletes (12%), the pre-participation evaluation led to the final diagnosis of pathological conditions warranting treatment and/or surveillance, including cardiovascular in 11 (4.5%), pulmonary in 11 (4.5%), endocrine in five (2.0%), infectious, neurological and psychiatric disorders in one each (0.4%). Based on National and International Guidelines and Recommendations, none of the athletes was considered at high risk for acute events and all were judged eligible to compete at the YOG. Athletes with abnormal conditions were required to undergo a periodic follow-up.

Conclusions: The Youth Pre-Participation Health Evaluation proved to be effective in identifying a wide range of disorders, allowing prompt treatment, appropriate surveillance and avoidance of potential long-term consequences, in a significant proportion (12%) of adolescent Italian Olympic athletes.

Keywords: adolescent; elite performance; health promotion; olympics; prevention.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletes*
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control
  • Competitive Behavior
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Examination / standards*
  • Preventive Medicine
  • Sports Medicine
  • Youth Sports*