Medical care delivery at the 1996 Olympic Games. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Olympics Surveillance Unit

JAMA. 1998 May 13;279(18):1463-8. doi: 10.1001/jama.279.18.1463.


Context: Mass gatherings like the 1996 Olympic Games require medical services for large populations assembled under unusual circumstances.

Objective: To examine delivery of medical services and to provide data for planning future events.

Design: Observational cohort study, with review of medical records at Olympics medical facilities.

Setting: One large multipurpose clinic and 128 medical aid stations operating at Olympics-sponsored sites in the vicinity of Atlanta, Ga.

Participants: A total of 10715 patients, including 1804 athletes, 890 officials, 480 Olympic dignitaries, 3280 volunteers, 3482 spectators, and 779 others who received medical care from a physician at an Olympic medical station.

Main outcome measures: Number of injuries and cases of heat-related illness among participant categories, medical use rates among participants with official Games credentials, and use rates per 10000 persons attending athletic competitions.

Results: Injuries, accounting for 35% of all medical visits, were more common among athletes (51.9% of their visits, P < .001) than among other groups. Injuries accounted for 31.4% of all other groups combined. Spectators and volunteers accounted for most (88.9%, P < .001) of the 1059 visits for heat-related illness. The rates for number of medical encounters treated by a physician were highest for athletes (16.2 per 100 persons, P < .001) and lowest for volunteers (2.0 per 100). Overall physician treatment rate was 4.2 per 10000 in attendance (range, 1.6-30.1 per 10000). A total of 432 patients were transferred to hospitals.

Conclusions: Organizers used these data during the Games to monitor the health of participants and to redirect medical and other resources to areas of increased need. These data should be useful for planning medical services for future mass gatherings.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anniversaries and Special Events*
  • Athletic Injuries
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Delivery of Health Care / economics
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Medical Services / economics
  • Emergency Medical Services / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Georgia
  • Health Planning
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Heat Stroke
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance
  • Public Health
  • Sports*
  • United States